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New Centers Will Deliver Advanced Care for Serious Eye Injuries

Image of Army Brig. Gen. Katherine Simonson, Defense Health Agency Deputy Assistant Director of the Research and Engineering Directorate, and Dr. Barclay Butler, Assistant Director for Management, DHA, talks with Army Lt. Col. Samantha Rodgers, Ophthalmology chief (left), during a tour and designation ceremony April 19 at the Ocular Trauma Center – San Antonio Region, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The designation ceremony marked the launch of DHA’s first Ocular Trauma Center, comprised of personnel from Brooke Army Medical Center and the 59th Medical Group. (Photo: Larine H. Barr, DOD) . Army Brig. Gen. Katherine Simonson, Defense Health Agency Deputy Assistant Director of the Research and Engineering Directorate, and Dr. Barclay Butler, Assistant Director for Management, DHA, talks with Army Lt. Col. Samantha Rodgers, Ophthalmology chief (left), during a tour and designation ceremony April 19 at the Ocular Trauma Center – San Antonio Region, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The designation ceremony marked the launch of DHA’s first Ocular Trauma Center, comprised of personnel from Brooke Army Medical Center and the 59th Medical Group. (Photo: Larine H. Barr, DOD)

The Defense Health Agency launched the first of four Ocular Trauma Centers, which will become primary hubs for the treatment of complex eye injuries and development of cutting-edge research programs.

Established with the support of DHA's Vision Center of Excellence, the four centers will be capable of providing care across the full range of eye injuries – from initial medical/surgical management through visual rehabilitation and follow-on care in Department of Defense or Department of Veterans Affairs facilities.

The first Ocular Trauma Center opened at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas on April 19. Three others are expected to open later this year, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center/Fort Belvoir Community Hospital; Madigan Army Medical Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; and at Naval Medical Center San Diego, California.

The four centers will provide access to top-notch care for the entire military community, said Army Brig. Gen. Katherine Simonson, deputy assistant director, Defense Health Agency, Research & Engineering Directorate.

"The establishment of the Ocular Trauma Centers will provide access to eye care professionals from a variety of subspecialties, offering comprehensive eye injury treatment and rehabilitation, and cutting edge research disciplines, critical to vision-preserving care," Simonson said.

The origin of the Ocular Trauma Centers began several years ago when the Blinded Veterans Association asked the Vision Center of Excellence to conduct an analysis of ocular care services.

Eye injuries can be very complex, sometimes requiring complicated care coordination across teams of multiple subspecialists. VCE analyzed eye injury data among service members, including demographic and location information, and validated the results with the help of the Defense and Veterans Eye Injury and Vision Registry.

In June 2021, VCE presented formal recommendations to establish four regional centers. The plans were approved by DHA Director Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ron Place, and Dr. Brian Lein, DHA assistant director for Healthcare Administration.

"Designation of the ocular trauma centers aligns seamlessly with the DHA priorities of Great Outcomes, Ready Medical Force, and Satisfied Patients," said Army Col. Scott McClellan, VCE branch chief.

The centers' long-term goals also include improvement of systemic ocular and vision care management for polytrauma patients with concurrent eye injuries, and to provide case management, or care coordination, to assist with ocular care management needs.

VCE will provide technical support and consultation to all four ocular trauma centers, along with data analysis to report on their effectiveness to Congress next year, McClellan said.

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