Walter Reed Army Medical Center

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The Walter Reed National Army Medical Center (WRAMC) is the United States Army's medical center on the east coast of the United States. Located on 113 acres (457,000 m²) in Washington, D.C., it serves more than 150,000 active and retired personnel from all branches of the military. The center is named after Major Walter Reed, an army surgeon who led the team which confirmed that yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes rather than direct contact.

Since its origins, what is now the WRAMC medical care facility has grown from a bed capacity of 80 patients to approximately 5,500 rooms covering more than 28 acres (113,000 m²) of floor space.


Origins at Fort McNair

Fort Lesley J. McNair, located in southwest Washington, D.C. on land set aside by George Washington as a military reservation, is the third oldest U.S. Army installation in continuous use in the United States after West Point and Carlisle Barracks. Its position at the confluence of the Anacostia River and the Potomac River made it an excellent site for the defense of the nation’s capital. Dating back to 1791, the post served as an arsenal, played an important role in our nation’s defense, and housed the first U.S. Federal Penitentiary from 1839 to 1862.

Today, Fort McNair enjoys a strong tradition as the intellectual headquarters for defense. Furthermore, with unparalleled vistas of the picturesque waterfront and the opposing Virginia shoreline, the historic health clinic at Fort McNair, the precursor of today's Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), overlooks the residences of top officials who choose the famed facility for the delivery of their health care needs.

"Walter Reed’s Clinic," the location of the present day health clinic at Ft. McNair, occupies what was from 1898 until 1909 the General Hospital at what was then Washington Barracks, long before the post was renamed in honor of Lt. Gen. McNair who was killed in Normandy in 1944 by friendly fire. The hospital served as the forerunner of Walter Reed General Hospital; however, the Victorian era waterfront dispensary remains and is perhaps one of America’s most historically significant military medical treatment facilities. It is reported that Walter Reed lived and worked in the facility when he was assigned as Camp Surgeon from 1881 to 1882. After having served on other assignments, he returned as Professor of Medicine and Curator of the Army Medical Museum. Some of his epidemiological work included studies at Washington Barracks, and he is best known for discovering the transmission of yellow fever. In 1902, Major Reed underwent emergency surgery here for appendicitis and died of complications in this U.S. Army Medical Treatment Facility (MTF), within the very walls of what became his final military duty assignment.

Regarding the structure itself, since the 1890’s the health clinic was used as an Army General Hospital where physicians, corpsmen and nurses were trained in military health care. In 1899, the morgue was constructed which now houses the Dental Clinic, and in 1901 the hospital became an entirely separate command (military formation). This new organizational command relocated eight years later with the aide of horse drawn wagons and an experimental steam driven ambulance in 1909. Departing from the 50-bed hospital, as documented in The Army Nursing Newsletter, Volume 99, Issue 2, February 2000[1], they set out due north transporting with them 11 patients initially to the new 65-bed facility in the northern aspect of our nation's capital. Having departed Ft. McNair, the organization has since developed into the Walter Reed Army Medical Center that we know today.

As for the facility they left behind at Fort McNair, it functioned in a smaller role as a post hospital until 1911 when the west wing was converted into a clinic. Today, this renovated medical treatment facility at Fort McNair continues its rich, uninterrupted heritage in providing a wide variety of state of the art health care to the capital region military community as an extension of WRAMC.

Walter Reed General Hospital and WRAMC

Congressional legislation authorized construction of Walter Reed General Hospital (WRGH, now known as "Building 1") and the first ten patients were admitted on May 1, 1909. According to the WRAMC website, Lt. Col. William Cline Borden "was the initiator, planner and effective mover for the creation, location, and first Congressional support of the Medical Center" Because of his efforts, the facility was nicknamed "Borden's Dream." [1]

In 1923, General John J. Pershing signed the War Department order creating the "Army Medical Center" (AMC) within the same campus as the WRGH. (At this time, the Army Medical School was relocated from 604 Louisiana Avenue and became the "Medical Department Professional Service School" (MDPSS) in the new Building 40.)

File:Walter Reed Hospital 1919 LOC 6a34053u.jpg
The Walter Reed General Hospital (main building with cupola in distance at far left) in September, 1919. The WRGH was precursor to today's WRAMC.

In September 1951, "General Order Number 8" combined the WRGH with the AMC; the entire complex of 100 rose-brick Georgian buildings was at that time renamed the "Walter Reed Army Medical Center" (WRAMC). In June 1955, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) occupied the new Building 54 and, in November, what had been MDPSS was renamed the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR). 1964 saw the birth of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing (WRAIN). Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower died at WRAMC on March 28, 1969.

Starting in 1972, a huge new WRAMC building (Building 2) was constructed and made ready for occupation by 1977. WRAIR moved from Building 40 to a large new facility on the WRAMC Forest Glen Annex in Maryland in 1999. Subsequently, Building 40 was slated for renovation under an enhanced use lease by a private developer.

Today, the U.S. President, Vice President, Senators and Representatives may all receive care at this medical center. WRAMC is considered a tertiary care center and houses numerous medical and surgical specialties. It is part of the larger Walter Reed Health Care System, which includes some ten other hospitals.

2005 replacement proposal

File:George W. Bush at Walter Reed.jpg
President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush visit Sgt. Patrick Hagood of Anderson, SC on October 5, 2005.

As part of a Base Realignment and Closure announcement on May 13, 2005, the Department of Defense proposed replacing Walter Reed Army Medical Center with a new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC); the new center would be on the grounds of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, seven miles (11 km) from WRAMC's current location in Washington, D.C. The proposal is part of a program to transform medical facilities into joint facilities, with staff including Army, Navy, and Air Force medical personnel.

On August 25, 2005, the BRAC Committee recommended passage of the plans for the WRNMMC.

The transfer of services from the existing to the new facilities will be gradual to allow for continuity of care for the thousands of service members, retirees and family members that currently depend upon WRAMC. The final closure of the current WRAMC facility has been set for September 2011.

2007 neglect scandal

In February of 2007, The Washington Post published a series of investigative articles outlining cases of alleged neglect (physical deterioration, bureaucratic nightmares, etc) at WRAMC as reported by outpatient soldiers and their family members. A scandal and media furor quickly developed resulting in the firing of the WRAMC commanding general Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman [2], the resignation of Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey (reportedly at the request of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates [3]), the forced resignation of Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, commander from 2002 to 2004[4], congressional committee hearings, and commentary from numerous politicians including President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Several independent governmental investigations are ongoing and the controversy has spread to other military health facilities and the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system.


In addition to the WRAMC hospital complex, the WRAMC installation hosts a number of other related activities and organizations.

Commanding Officers


External links

id:Walter Reed Army Medical Center no:Walter Reed Army Medical Center