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NEWS | July 19, 2012

New burn care center fully operational in San Antonio

By Steven Galvan U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research

The U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research began a new era in burn and combat casualty trauma care when the staff moved its patients into the burn intensive care unit recently.

They performed the first surgical procedure May 25, in one of two operating rooms of the new burn center in the San Antonio Military Medical Center, or SAMMC, consolidated tower at Joint Base San Antonio - Fort Sam Houston.

The completion of the move comes several weeks after the initial move of the burn rehabilitation center, the outpatient clinic, the administrative section, and the clinical studies branch.

"The new burn center challenges us to use all that we have learned during the war and improve care for the benefit of all future burn patients admitted to our center," said Col. Evan Rez, Burn Center director.

Renz said the move marks a monumental milestone for the only Department of Defense burn center.

"The long anticipated occupation of the new burn center highlights the organization's enduring commitment to combat casualty care and research," he said.

As the only burn center for the DOD for more than 50 years, it has been providing specialized care for casualties with severe burns, inhalation injury, and complex soft-tissue trauma, or BICU, sustained in combat or accidents.

In addition, it serves as the regional burn center for South Central Texas, providing care for hundreds of civilian emergency patients each year.

"Our role as a regional burn center is twofold," said burn center Chief Nurse Lt. Col. Louis Stout.

Stout said the first is to provide a critical service. The second is the necessity to remain clinically proficient in times of peace so that we can assume our mission rapidly in times of conflict.

"These are perishable skills that are not easily, or quickly, mastered and must be maintained" she said.

The center is located on the fourth floor of the new seven-story tower at SAMMC and is approximately 40 percent larger in size than the previous unit.

Some of the new features include two operating rooms with cameras installed in the surgical lights to transmit live videos of surgical procedures to monitors in the operating rooms and nurses' stations, and a conference room for educational purposes for medical students and staff.

The new facility also combines two eight-bed burn intensive care units into one 16-bed unit where each BICU room utilizes a 360-degree design in which most of the vital equipment is attached to a ceiling-mounted boom, allowing the patient's bed to rotate completely around the room.

"The successful transition to the new burn center has validated the integral value of a multidisciplinary approach to patient care," said clinical nurse Maj. Trinity Peak, BICU officer-in-charge.

It also reaffirmed staff that they have the skills and knowledge to accomplish their mission anywhere and at anytime, he said, while never losing sight of the the patient."

Since 2003, the burn center has cared for approximately 1,000 wounded warriors evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan and 2,500 civilian patients from the South Central Texas region. The Burn Center employs approximately 300 staff members with multiple critical burn care skills from the Army, civil service, and contractors.

The United States Army Surgical Research is a subordinate command of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.

The mission to "optimize combat casualty care" is accomplished by conducting science and clinical research in the fields of damage control resuscitation, homeostasis, engineering, and tissue regeneration affecting combat casualties, including burns.