Local veterans and their families gathered with staff of the Charles George VA Medical Center on Wednesday to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the clinic located on Wayah Street. The celebration began with the presentation of the colors by the combined color guard of the American Legion Post 108, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7339, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 994 and Marine Corps League, followed by the benediction by Chaplain Brenda DuBose of the American Legion.
Cynthia Breyfogle, director of the medical center, spoke about the success of the local veteran clinic since it opened its doors on August 20, 2008. “The establishment of this clinic was a giant step forward in providing health care to our veterans, America’s heroes, where they live.”
According to Breyfogle, the staff of the clinic has taken care of 5,029 veterans over the last five years, adding up to 96,000 appointments saving our local veterans and their families that many trips over the mountain for medical care at the Asheville clinic. The clinic uses a centralistic team approach to treating veterans under the leadership of Dr. David Ramsey, medical director, and Angie Stone, nurse manager. Breyfogle spoke of the excellent service and commitment to the veterans by the team of doctors, nurses, pharmacy staff, social workers and support people.
General F. P. Bodenheimer was then recognized by Breyfogle for his generosity in helping to get the clinic open and for donating the building that houses the clinic. “He is a living example of the axiom by Winston Churchill ‘a citizen soldier is twice the citizen,’” she said in recognition of the many civilian as well as military accomplishments of Bodenheimer. In addition, she also recognized the late Senator Robert Carpenter, who was represented at the celebration by his wife Helen, for his tireless effort to make the dream of a veteran’s clinic a reality.
Ramsey gave an overview of the clinic citing that the center has about 17,000 visits a year, with 3,600 patients receiving primary care area and 7,000 labs performed. Multiple services are provided at the clinic including primary care, optometry, mental health, risk reduction and lab services. Ramsey also recognized the staff citing their accomplishment of earning gold rankings in partnership with the Asheville clinic. “Out of the 800 community based clinics in the country, we are number one,” said an enthusiast Ramsey. The clinic follows the PACT parameter, patient approved care team, and under this approach is committed to serving the veterans working on continual improvement as they listen to feedback from the veterans to improve their services.
The keynote speaker was Bodenheimer who spoke about what a tremendous asset the VA clinic is to our community. “Today we celebrate something that has been more than we ever dreamed it could be. I think this is the most meaningful thing that has happened in this town, in this community in a long, long time, maybe the most important thing,” said Bodenheimer.
Speaking on behalf of the veterans Bodenheimer said “the veterans have said that this is the best thing that has happened to them, the staff is perfect and add dignity to their trip to the clinic.” “What has happened here has been a magnificence experience of quality, genuine care and appreciation,” said Bodenheimer as he said thanked Ramsey and his staff.
The ceremony concluded with the retirement of the flags that have flown over the clinic for the last five years by the combined color guard. In appreciation for his service and dedication to the center, the retired flags were presented to Bodenheimer.