The pilot project was launched with the help of philanthropist Ronald A. Katz, a well-known inventor and UCLA Medical Center board member, who recognized that providing excellent care to injured soldiers need not be limited to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Armed Services. The project aims to serve as a model for other medical institutions interested in helping additional wounded service members.
"'Operation Mend' represents an extraordinary collaboration between the surgeons and staff of UCLA Medical Center and Brooke Army Medical Center," said Katz, whose Katz Family Foundation will fund all uncovered costs associated with the project, including lodging patients and family members at UCLA's Tiverton House, a hotel on the hospital campus designed to meet the needs of patients receiving treatment at UCLA.
"We believe this is a great opportunity to partner with the specialists at UCLA Medical Center as we strive to always provide the best outcome for each of our wounded servicemen and women," said Brig. Gen. James Gilman, commander of Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC).
The project's first patient, U.S. Marine Cpl. Aaron P. Mankin, 25, arrived at UCLA Sunday. Mankin, injured by an improvised explosive device in Iraq two years ago, sustained burns over 25 percent of his body, and his face was severely disfigured. This September, he began a series of facial reconstructive surgeries that will take several months to complete. He will undergo the second stage of surgery on Tuesday at UCLA.
"I get to go back to these guys at BAMC and say 'Hey, look at me, we can make this happen.' The implications of what will come from this collaboration are more far-reaching than anyone has yet to imagine," Mankin said.
Since his injury and return to the U.S., Mankin has been at Brooke Army Medical Center, where he lives with his wife, Marine Lance Cpl. Diana Mankin, and their 8-month-old daughter, Madeline Paige, nicknamed "Maddie."
The surgeries will be led by Dr. Timothy Miller, chief of reconstructive and plastic surgery at UCLA Medical Center, who is also a military veteran.
"It is a privilege for UCLA Medical Center to assist our country's men and women in the military," said Dr. David T. Feinberg, chief executive officer and interim associate vice chancellor of the UCLA Health. "We are honored to partner with Brooke Army Medical Center to help heal several of America's wounded warriors."
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. Taylor has also volunteered to serve as Mankin's case manager and will help coordinate his care at UCLA.
UCLA Medical Center is ranked as one of the top three hospitals in the nation and has been rated the best hospital in the western United States for 18 consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report. It is the only Southern California hospital to earn a spot on the magazine's "honor roll" in each of the 18 years the survey has been conducted. The medical center is a nonprofit, self-supporting 668-bed hospital providing patient care in all medical specialties. It is the primary teaching hospital for the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. For more information, visit http://www.uclahealth.org/.
If you would like to contribute to the Operation Mend program, please visit https://giving.ucla.edu/plasticsurgery or contact Adrienne Walt, Director of Development, UCLA Medical Sciences, firstname.lastname@example.org, (310) 267-1835.
(Note to Editors: A preview of b-roll footage and sound bites is also available at http://streaming.uclahealth.org/operationmend using Windows Media.)
Visit www.operationmend.ucla.edu for more information.