Operation Mend; solidifying partnerships

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UCLA Operation Mend was established in 2007 as a groundbreaking partnership among UCLA Health, the United States military and the Department of Veterans Affairs to help heal the wounds of war. Operation Mend provides advanced surgical and medical treatment, as well as comprehensive psychological-health support for post-9/11-era service members, veterans and their families at no cost.

Operation Mend was envisioned by Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center Board and Executive Committee member Ronald A. Katz after a visit to Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), a leading burn and rehabilitation center in San Antonio, Texas, where he and his wife Maddie provided a lead gift to build a new 42-unit Fisher House. This visit inspired the Katz family to secure a commitment from UCLA to partner with BAMC on Operation Mend. “I think it is the private sector’s duty to stand up … and do something extra to help,” said Katz. “I asked UCLA Health if there was a way that we could offer our services and give these kids and their families not only the best the Army has to offer, but the best the country has to offer.” The program is open to members from all service branches.

In 2013 Operation Mend began its relationship with Fort Irwin by treating numerous traumatic brain injury patients at their UCLA medical facility.

The fight against traumatic brain injuries was formalized between Fort Irwin and the University of California at Los Angeles Health System when leadership representatives of both organizations signed a memorandum of agreement, here, March 31, 2014. Col. Cheryl Taylor-Whitehead, commander of United States Army Medical Department Activity at that time, and Shannon O’Kelley, chief operating officer of UCLA Health System, signed an MOA prior to the start of a TBI Summit, which brought experts from UCLA and the Army together to discuss the battle against TBI’s.

Retired Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli, chief executive officer of One Mind for Research, took part in the summit. Before retiring in 2012, and as Army Vice Chief of Staff, Chiarelli led the way in reducing the number of suicides occurring in the Army. One of his strategies was to de-stigmatize behavior health issues.

Now, three years later, the relationship between the two entities continues. Col. Seth Krummrich, commander of United States Army Garrison and his senior enlisted advisor Command Sgt. Maj. Dan O’Brien traveled to Los Angeles on July 27 to tour the Operation Mend organization. While there, they had the opportunity to learn about some of the programs offered to include the intensive treatment program, reconstructive surgery and other subspecialty medical care. Dana Katz, Director of Community Engagement and Buddy Programs and Dr. Jo Sornborger Director Psychological Health Programs, spoke about how important it is to treat the entire family. “We put a tremendous effort in pairing our patients and their families up with a buddy family,” said Katz.

The program is available to eligible warriors injured during combat operations or while training for service.