Friday, July 22, 2011

So Long, Walter Reed!

I have been following the news of the impending closure of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, from afar for several years. I have very mixed feelings right now about the whole thing.

I spent the majority of my time in the military, from 1991 to 1999, at Walter Reed, first as a pathology resident, and later as a staff pathologist and medical director of blood services. While I and everyone who has ever worked there would tell you that it was FAR from a perfect place, I can say with certainly that the medical and nursing staff that I dealt with were incredible! There was so much skill, so much caring, and so much passion for giving soldiers and dependents the best possible medical care that you couldn't help but go home every day full of pride. At the same time, the frustrations regarding cuts in support staff, facilities that were aging badly, and the results of seemingly millions of previous poor administrative decisions on everything from computers to lab equipment became exhausting.

Despite all of the frustrating parts of being at "Walter Wonderful," I can honestly say that my time there was among the most important and beneficial of my career. I was forced (sometimes against my will) to make leadership and medical decisions that I wasn't sure I was ready to make, and the resulting experiences have stayed with me and guide things that I do today. The Army was great to me, and my memories of Walter Reed are mostly very good.

If you read the article I linked above, you will see that the comment section contains thoughts about Walter Reed that are decidedly mixed. That is understandable. Anyone who spent any time there knows that the place had flaws, sometimes big glaring flaws. I would bet, however, that most of us would also say that we are better healthcare providers as a result of the experience we gained at Wally World. I will miss the place, and cherish the memories of the people that I knew there.