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Keesler preparing to open clinic

BILOXI — The staff of Keesler Medical Center’s new radiation oncology clinic is gearing up to begin treating patients in March, according Maj. (Dr.) Clayton Chen, 81st Medical Operations Squadron chief of radiation oncology. Plans are already underway for a formal ribbon-cutting for the new facility in the near future.

The heart of the clinic, the linear accelerator (linac), was moved into the structure last year from its previous location on the ground floor of the main medical center building. The new clinic building is elevated 24 feet above sea level to avoid flooding from any future Katrina-like storm. Currently, there are minor construction items being completed and the linear accelerator is undergoing final commissioning.

The clinic staff includes two active-duty radiation oncologists and two government civilian administrative assistants provided by the Biloxi Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The team also includes eight contract members — two physicists, a dosimetrist, three radiation therapists, a chief radiation therapist and a nurse.

The majority of the services provided — approximately 95 percent, according to Chen — involves treating cancer patients. The remaining 5 percent of patients have benign conditions, such as keloids or heterotopic bone formation. The clinic will be able to treat up to 30 patients daily, with 80 percent of them referred by the VA medical center.

Chen said not all the therapies would be available when the clinic reopens, though the hospital expects them to be within the next few months.

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