Medical clinic offers new vaccine, eye surgeries

  • Published
  • By Tyler Hemstreet
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Not even the deep snow on the ground, treacherous road conditions or numerous late reporting days during the last couple of weeks could stop the 62nd Medical Group's clinic from opening its doors to its patients.

"Throughout all the weather-related incidents, we kept things running for folks," said Col. Thomas McCauley, 62nd MDG commander.

Even though the clinic used minimal staffing at times to weather the manpower shortages, Colonel McCauley said, it did what it could to take care of its patients.

Providing that same care on a daily basis sometimes requires the clinic to look for different ways to get the job done, even if it means working with another agency.

The clinic recently started offering more active duty patients photorefractive keratectomy and LASIK eye surgery through a partnership with the Navy's clinic in Bremerton, said Maj. Christine Stabile, 62nd MDG chief of the optometry clinic.

A patient's choices for the surgery before the change gave them just two options; travel to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., or the Air Force's clinic in San Antonio, Texas to have the procedure done.

The 62nd MDG clinic had to limit the number of patients it could take for the surgery because the numerous follow-up visits patients needed took staff time away from the normal patient population, Major Stabile said.

"We couldn't make this work here at McChord, so Major Stabile reached out for the alternative," said Col. Lori Heim, 62nd MDG chief of medical staff. "It's unique to have that interagency cooperation to utilize other services."

It's unique and effective at the same time since the surgery and follow-up visits will now be handled in Bremerton, Major Stabile said.

"We can now take nearly 1,100 patients for the procedure as opposed to just 10 or 11 before," Major Stabile said.

Patients can start receiving the PRK surgery Feb. 1 and the Lasik Mar. 1, Major Stabile said.

In another move to better serve patients, the clinic is now offering the human papillomavirus vaccine to McChord beneficiaries enrolled at the clinic. The vaccination protects against four major types of HPV.

"Once we realized this is something that can prevent cancer, we've stepped out and said this is something important for our population and we need to do this now," Colonel Heim said of the Center for Disease Control-recommended vaccination.

The clinic started administering the voluntary immunizations last week.

The vaccination, administered in three doses, is available for females aged 11-26. Minors need guardian permission to receive the vaccination, Colonel Heim said.

"We're always watching for the latest developments in the medical industry and how we go about getting it for our patients," Colonel McCauley said.