A UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP between a military hospital and UCLA Medical Center will help several Armed Services personnel wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. The first patient is U.S. Marine Cpl. Aaron P. Mankin, who was burned over 25 percent of his body and whose face was severely disfigured by a roadside bomb in Iraq in May 2005. Mankin began a series of facial-reconstruction surgeries in September that will take several months to complete.
“It is a privilege for UCLA Medical Center to assist our country’s men and women in the military,” says Dr. David T. Feinberg, CEO of UCLA Hospital System and interim associate vice chancellor. “We are honored to partner with Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) to help heal several of America’s wounded warriors.” Since his return to the United States following his injury, Mankin has been at BAMC in San Antonio, Texas, where he lives with his wife, Diana, also a Marine, and their baby daughter, Maddie. Two other surgical candidates from BAMC have been selected for the project, dubbed “Operation Mend.” One goal of the project is to create a model for other medical institutions to benefit additional wounded service members. The surgeries will be led by Dr. Timothy Miller, chief of reconstructive and plastic surgery at UCLA and a Vietnam veteran. Service members like Cpl. Mankin “have given a great sacrifi ce to our country,” Dr. Miller says. “I feel it is my obligation to help them in any way I possibly can.”
Operation Mend was launched with the help of UCLA Medical Center board member and philanthropist Ronald A. Katz, who recognized that providing excellent care to injured soldiers need not be limited to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Armed Services. “I think it is the private sector’s duty to stand up ... and do something extra to help,” says Katz. “[UCLA] has a spectacular facial-reconstruction group, and I asked, ‘Is there a way that we could offer our services and give these kids not only the best the Army has to offer, but the best the country has to offer?’ ” The Katz Family Foundation will fund all uncovered costs of the project, while the university will arrange to house the patients and their families at UCLA’s Tiverton House.