DeBakey VA center attracting 'best doctors'

February 2, 2011 4:56:36 PM PST
Veterans at Houston's DeBakey VA Medical Center are getting some of the best health care in America. That may come as a surprise to many, but there's a reason why the "best docs" want to work at the VA hospital.

"Old reputations die hard. No question if you went back in the VA 30 years ago, we weren't a top-notch institution," Dr. Blase Carabello said.

But Houston's DeBakey VA Medical Center has had electronic medical records for years. That's why of the thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina, the only ones that had any medical records were VA patients.

"I think people have always thought of the VA as sort of not as good as going to the Ivory Tower or the Medical Center, to Methodist or St. Luke's or Texas Children's but actually the care here is phenomenal," Dr. Silvia Orengo-Nania said.

It's phenomenal because the best doctors and researchers want to work there. Literally, 78 VA doctors are on the "Best Doctors in America" list.

"We have roughly six times more best docs than you would expect if we were just average. That's pretty good," Dr. Carabello said.

Why? Many teach at Baylor College of Medicine. And they can do lifesaving research, like Dr Rabih Darouiche's study that has reduced infections in U.S. surgery patients.

"You can save thousands of lives by switching to this more optimal antiseptic preparation," Dr. Darouiche said.

"We as physicians are actually very lucky to work here. We have a lot of access to technology that's amazing," Dr. Orengo-Nania said.

And when Iraq veterans came home with brain injuries, the VA didn't have a traumatic brain injury program, but it started one. VA Patient William Potter has been in VA hospitals for a year.

When he goes home soon, he says he wants to do some volunteer work for the VA.

"To kind pay them back for what they did for me," Potter said.

Helping veterans may be the biggest reason so many "best" doctors choose to work here.

The best doctors list is compiled by surveys of doctors and specialists around America. The polling is confidential, and the "best" doctors are chosen based on 1.5 million evaluations collected annually.