"Operation Mend" represents collaboration between the surgeons and staff of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas. The two organizations are working together to deliver the best medical care in the country to U.S. military personnel wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Operation Mend" was founded by philanthropist, inventor, and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center advisory board member Ronald A. Katz. Katz and his wife, Maddie, were inspired to do something for the military after watching CNN's Lou Dobbs interview U.S. Marine Cpl. Aaron Mankin ['Operation Mend's' first patient], who showed great spirit despite his shattered face.
"That kid with a twinkle in his eye said he had about another year of surgeries until they could 'make him beautiful again' and I pretty much made up my mind that we had to do something." said Katz, who worked diligently to help bring together the two bureaucratic organizations.
"We all [Ron and Maddie Katz, UCLA Health System leadership] flew down to San Antonio together. We met with the managing staff of the army hospital and talked about what could be done," he explained.
When news of UCLA's involvement in the project became known, UCLA clinical nurse specialist and former U.S. Army nurse Priscilla "Patti" Taylor led a community group of military veterans in creating several "quilts of valor" to be presented to arriving soldiers-a military tradition. Each soldier in the program is presented with a patriotic quilt to give comfort and aid the healing process. Taylor also volunteered to serve as Cpl. Mankin's case manager and is helping to coordinate his care at UCLA.
"This is another example of how the community connects with this program," Katz said.
He also cited Dr. Timothy Miller, chief of reconstructive surgery at UCLA Medical Center, who is a military veteran and the lead surgeon on the team. "'Operation Mend' is about matching great skill with volunteerism and patriotism. These physicians are sharing their gift. They're leading edge."
Patients and family members are housed at UCLA's Tiverton House, a hotel on the college campus designed to meet the needs of patients receiving treatment at UCLA. They have 'buddy families' who plan activities to make their stay warmer, kinder, and more fun.