FORT RUCKER, Ala. (January 23, 2014) -- A project 10 years in the making, Lyster Army Health Clinic welcomed an updated addition to its facility that will better serve patrons and manage patient flow more efficiently.

Hundreds converged upon LAHC for a ribbon cutting ceremony Jan. 15 to open the clinic's new up-to-date laboratory that boasts an automated system that will help patients more effectively get the care they need in a timely manner, said Karla Moorehead, chief of laboratory services.

"The lab renovation project was part of a five-year plan that began more than 10 years ago when we transitioned from a hospital to a clinic, and the actual design process for the new lab began (about) two years ago," she said.

The lab has served Fort Rucker for almost 30 years since it opened in 1985 and wasn't only a clinical lab, but an anatomical lab, as well. Since the anatomical section closed in 2004 and Lyster was downsized to a clinic, the laboratory was left with excess administrative and technical space, said Moorehead.

"The new laboratory replaced a very old facility that's footprint and design was much larger and antiquated," said Col. James A. Laterza, LAHC commander. "The opportunity to move the laboratory into a new and improved functional space coincided with the renovation of the pharmacy. The pharmacy needed to expand to meet an ever-growing demand for services, while the laboratory footprint could reduce as technology improved."

Moorehead, who has been working with the clinic for more than 30 years, agreed that the reduction in space was a good thing

"As technology in laboratory medicine advances, the instrumentation's footprint typically gets smaller," she said. "The new lab's design has greatly improved work flow."

The relocation and renovation of the lab is part of a string of updates to the health clinic that also includes the pharmacy and behavioral clinic, as well as smaller projects like revamping the entrance to the facility.

The renovations are necessary in maintaining the best possible patient care on all levels that Lyster's facilities can provide, said Laterza, adding that the laboratory is no exception when it comes to the services it delivers.

"The laboratory provides the main portal of entry for pathology services for Soldiers, Families and retirees," said the LAHC commander. "The military mission of Aviation relies heavily on medical qualification to perform duties, and laboratory testing is used extensively in the process. It's also vital in post-mishap evaluations to ensure Soldiers are evaluated completely when accidents occur."