MDG takes keys to new clinic, eyes Aug. 23 soft opening

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  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — A construction project seven years in the making is closer to coming to fruition as the 82nd Medical Group has taken possession of its new multimillion dollar medical treatment facility.

Col. Felicia Burks, 82nd MDG commander, said now that the MDG has the keys to the new $72 million clinic, the process is underway to finish the outfitting process before the planned ribbon cutting and soft opening on Aug. 23, 2022. To-dos on the list include installing low-voltage systems, informational technology components, receiving new furniture to match the sleek, modern ambiance seen throughout the 171,000 square feet building, and a few other items. 

“(We are) very excited to be able to offer a new, modern building to patients and families,” she said, acknowledging there have been some delays for various reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic. “We wanted to make sure that we got it right because our intent and our whole reason for being here is to take care of our Airmen and their families. We want to make sure we’re providing safe and reliable patient care.”

The new facility features a modern floor-to-ceiling glass entryway to welcome staff, beneficiaries and guests. A total of 22 departments — 11 on each of the two floors — will occupy the building, from administration to patient care and support functions.

Burks said it was a relief to finally get the keys to the facility on April 11, 2022. Not only does it provide a more modern, aesthetically pleasing and open concept for staff, but also an amazing first impression for Airmen and providers new to the military, as well as to those benefiting from its services.

Another bonus, she said, is the proximity to the student training squadron dormitories. Airmen have to make a fairly decent trek on foot to the current medical facility, but the location of the new clinic will shave several minutes off their anticipated time out of class.

Nancy Dickinson, Defense Health Agency project officer for construction and program manager for facility outfitting, said the new design and layout of the facility is a “paradigm shift” for not only the Department of Defense, but also those who work in the clinic. For example, some might question why or if floor-to-ceiling glass was necessary. But even that, she said, is part of the holistic approach to providing quality patient care.

“The design facts show that the more natural lighting you have in a medical facility, the better healing potential you have for our patients,” she said. “That is fact-based from a lot of studies, so the new designs are just gorgeous.”

Dickinson, who is an Air Force retiree who served in the biomedical schoolhouse here before medical training moved to San Antonio, said the process to build a new clinic began in 2015 with the Air Force Health Facilities Division. Contracts were written and designs were started, but the project was pushed back for a year. A contract was awarded in 2017, and the design phase began in full force.

Installation and medical group leadership broke ground on the new clinic, located at the intersection of Tuskegee Airman Avenue and Avenue G, on Sept. 10, 2018. The anticipated opening was slated for 2020, but that was before COVID-19 hit the region. Construction delays and other issues also led to the prolonged delay, but Dickinson said they’ve overcome those issues and are now pushing toward the finish line.

The clinic will be fully operational on Aug. 24, 2022. 

Dickinson said once the new clinic is fully occupied and operational, the MDG has 30 days to get all remaining items — furniture, equipment, etc. — out of the old facility in preparation of the next phase of the overall $92 million project — demolition of the existing 350,000-square-feet clinic, which was built in the mid-1960s. 

“There is no projection of exactly how they’re going to demolish that, yet, whether it will be implosion or not,” she said. “Once they bring that down, they have to bring the grounds to exactly what the grounds look like now. That will be a challenge in itself. That’s a very large building. So, it’s going to be exciting for me.”

The old facility carries a lot of Sheppard history with it, from Operation Homecoming when Vietnam War POWs came home to caring for area residents when a massive tornado hit nearby Wichita Falls on April 10, 1979. Those who have worked in or benefited from its services are already looking at keepsakes to commemorate its era.

“I’ve got patients who stop me all the time in the building asking if they can have those pictures,” Dickinson said. “You see the black and white pictures in the old building. So, they want those pictures, and we are — Colonel Burks and I are making sure that those pictures are given to those folks.”