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Dr. Sally Ann Holmes.

This Highland Village resident, despite having a debilitating disease in high school is a hero and an inspiration to many as she treats veterans recovering from their own spinal cord injuries upon their return from war. The Baylor College of Medicine and the Michael E. Debakey Veterans Affair Medical Center are proud to call her one of their own.

 

What is your current position at the hospital and how did you end there?

 

I completed my residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in 1994, and started at the Houston VA Medical Center that year. I am also on faculty at BCM in the Department of PM&R. I have been the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Care Line Executive at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) since 2001. The SCI Center at the MEDVAMC follows approximately 600 Veterans with SCI from the Houston area and the South Central VA Network including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and the panhandle of Florida. At the MEDVAMC, I oversee forty inpatient
beds, a SCI outpatient clinic, and a SCI home care program.


Have you seen a big increase in patients returning from the Iraq or Afghanistan wars and what are the causes of most injuries you treat?


The MEDVAMC treats many Veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The most common traumatic injuries are from explosive devices that result in head injuries and amputations but rarely SCI. The MEDVAMC SCI Center follows approximately 10 Veterans who have sustained SCI during these conflicts from gunshot wounds or Humvee rollovers. Mental health issues faced by Veterans, who have served in these conflicts, including post traumatic stress disorder, depression and substance abuse, are treated frequently at the Houston VA.


The treatment for many diseases and conditions have improved greatly over the last decade. What can you tell us about the progress of treating spinal cord injuries?

At this time there is not a cure for SCI. Historically, persons with SCI were rarely able to live outside of a hospital or nursing home and had a short life expectancy. The good news is that with the advances in medical management since World War II persons with SCI now live in the community, have active lifestyles and a nearly normal lifespan. These advances include the triage and management of traumatic injuries in the combat theater, treatment of urinary tract infections and prevention of kidney disease. Health promotion and disease prevention strategies including flu shots, smoking cessation, active lifestyle and good nutrition are keys to quality of life and longevity after SCI.

What motivates you day in and day out to do what you do?

I am motivated by the ability to have a positive impact on our patients, staff and trainees. As a person who requires access to medical care and adaptive equipment including a power wheelchair, adapted van and
other medical equipment, I know how important it is to provide care and services to the Veterans we serve.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Ensuring the Veterans we serve have timely access to state of the art rehabilitative, medical and surgical care as well as the adaptive equipment that they need to maximize their quality of life. I also enjoy the opportunity to teach and participate in clinical research.
We are currently participating in a multi-center VA study designed toassist Veterans with SCI in returning to work.

What can you tell young people today that may look at your success as an inspiration?

Find a career that builds on your strengths and interests and neverdwell on your limitations.

What do you like most about living in the city of Houston?

I love living “inside the loop” with quick access to the Texas Medical Center, great food, theater and sports. My Mom and I are proud Texans season ticket holders. I met my husband here and married at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in 2010. My immediate family is in Houston and it just feels like home.