, WA — This year, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs commemorates 75 years of the Veterans Health Administration.
Originally established in 1946 as the Department of Medicine & Surgery to care for Veterans returning from World War II, VHA has evolved to meet the unique challenges and care needs of Veterans from every era and at every stage of their lives.
To mark this occasion, VA Puget Sound Health Care System is highlighting VHA’s long-standing commitment to putting Veterans at the center of the care experience, recognizing its world-class mission-driven health care professionals and highlighting contributions to medical science.
“As we celebrate this historic milestone of VHA’s 75th anniversary, we are presented with an opportunity to look back on VA Puget Sound’s contributions to the care of our Veterans—our nation’s heroes,” said VA Puget Sound Health Care System Director Michael Tadych. “Recognizing the extraordinary efforts of the VA Puget Sound team, especially this year during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a testament of our passion of providing Veterans with outstanding health care.”
During the past 97 years, VA Puget Sound has made vast and wide-reaching contributions across Western Washington to improve the health of Veterans and the entire nation by providing services and technologies that have changed the way health care providers across the country practice medicine.
As for VA Puget Sound’s history, here are some milestones:
American Lake Campus: The American Lake campus began in 1923 as the 94th Veterans Hospital to be built by the War Department for the provision of care to World War I Veterans. The Secretary of the Army authorized, under a revocable license, the Veteran Bureau's use of 377 acres of the 87,000-acre Fort Lewis property in Tacoma. The medical center was dedicated in 1924 and chartered with a single mission—neuro-psychiatric treatment. On March 15, 1924, the first 50 patients were admitted to the hospital, by transfer, from Western State Hospital at Fort Steilacoom.
Seattle Campus: After the end of World War II, the VA found it necessary to locate a facility in the booming metropolis of Seattle to accommodate the many returning war Veterans. The Seattle Division was constructed from 1949 to 1951, on a 44-acre site that had been a part of Jefferson Park. The site was dedicated on May 15, 1951, on Beacon Hill, with views of downtown Seattle and the Puget Sound to the North and Northwest; Mt. Rainier and the Cascade mountain range to the South and Southeast.
Since erecting its two main campuses in Seattle and Tacoma, VA Puget Sound added seven Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Bellevue, Chehalis, Federal Way, Mount Vernon, Port Angeles, North Seattle, Silverdale and South Sound; and one Community Resource & Referral Center in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. Its team of more than 4,000 employees provides comprehensive care to more than 155,000 Veterans enrolled at one of its ten facilities. Additionally, Veterans from the Pacific Northwest five-state area receive specialized care through our regional hubs: Regional Spinal Cord Injury Hub; Regional Amputation Center; Polytrauma Network Site; and Transplant Site: Marrow & Lung. Additionally, as the VA’s 5th largest research program, VA Puget Sound has research in virtually every major clinical department, including: Traumatic brain injury and multiple blast exposures; memory improvement and Alzheimer's Disease; PTSD and deployment health; Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes; cancer; substance abuse; lower limb prosthetics; genomics; and Health Services. And VA Puget Sound has seven nationally recognized Centers of Excellence (in areas from limb-loss prevention and prosthetic engineering to primary care education and substance abuse treatment).
Some of VA Puget Sound’s most notable local contributions include:
- In 1951, VA Puget Sound became an on-site location for clinical training for University of Washington School of Medicine. Since that time, an average of 1,700 health care professions—from physicians and nurses to social workers and psychologists—receive medical training at VA Puget Sound each year as part of its more than 150 active associated health, graduate medical education, nursing undergraduate, and graduate research affiliations in Pacific Northwest and beyond. The skills and knowledge they learn from VA Puget Sound are implemented in hospitals and clinics across the country. University of Washington School of Medicine and a collaboration with Seattle Institute for Biomedical and Clinical Research are integral to its ongoing discoveries.
- VHA leading the nation in telehealth services, VA Puget Sound Veteran encounters increased almost 600% (from 13,742 to 94,620) during the COVID-19 pandemic as compared to prior year during the same date range.
- Members of the VA Puget Sound team continue to be recognition as global and national leaders and innovators in their fields. Of the hundreds of award-winning staff, here are a few:
- VA Puget Sound Radiologist, Chair of the VA's Advisory Panel on 3D Printing, VHA 3D Printing Advisory Committee Chair and UW Assistant Professor of Radiology Dr. Beth Ripley was honored as the 2020 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal winner in Science and Environment during the Oct. 16, 2019 gala. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our focus broadened to include the creation of face masks, shields, and other personal protective equipment. She’s been integral in VHA’s partnership with the FDA and NIH to harness the community of 3D print manufacturers to respond to COVID-19.
- In October 2020, VA Puget Sound Section Chief for General Internal Medicine Dr. Joyce E. Wipf received VA’s highest honor for health professions education, the David M. Worthen Award for her outstanding health professions trainee education champion whose lifetime contributions have profoundly advanced and impacted the educational mission of VHA.
- VA Puget Sound Regional Amputation Center Medical Director Dr. Jeffrey Heckman received the 2020 FedHealthIT Innovation Award in 2020 for his work—FLOW3—to provide Veterans with prosthetics faster and more accurately than ever before. FLOW3 is a novel workflow computerized management system that incorporates three custom-designed applications to facilitate the process for obtaining prosthetic limbs for Veterans.
- VA Puget Sound Endocrinologist and Associate Director of the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center Dr. Stephen Plymate received the 2020 William S. Middleton Award September 2020 for his groundbreaking contributions to VA research, particularly the field of prostate cancer and its treatment. It is the highest honor conferred by the VA Biomedical Laboratory Research and Development Service.
- In September 2019, the European Association for the Study of Diabetes awarded VA Puget Sound Health Care System Endocrinologist Dr. Steven Kahn with its highest honor in diabetes research, the Claude Bernard Medal. The medal and lectureship recognize an individual’s innovative leadership and lifetime achievements in diabetes research.
VA Puget Sound is also part of the VHA Innovators Network, helping frontline employees develop innovative ideas and diffuse those ideas across the enterprise to provide superior care and the best health outcomes to our Veterans. VA Puget Sound is now one of only four VA hospitals in the country with a bioprinter, a specialized 3D printer that can print living cells and tissues. The VA Puget Sound team is partnering with Advanced Solutions Life Sciences to create a recipe for living bio-printed bone, with the hope that soon Veterans who need bone grafts can receive a custom-built bone made specifically for them from their own cells. 3D printing is just one of the many innovations its focused on to help clinicians better visualize patient anatomy and disease for diagnosis, surgical and treatment planning—improving health outcomes, reducing time to treatment and enhancing the patient experience.
For more information on VA Puget Sound accomplishments and future projects contact VA Puget Sound Communication Director Tami Begasse at 206-277-1711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about VHA’s 75th anniversary, visit https://www.va.gov/vha-history/.