FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 10, 2012) -- Hugh Tobin, a retired Chinook flight engineer, has been witness to many changes around Fort Rucker. He was a student on post when Lyster Army Health Clinic opened its doors in the 1960s.

"There have been a lot of changes here," he said, "but it's a good place. The people here are good people."

Lyster Army Health Clinic, or LAHC, celebrated a grand re-opening, ribbon cutting and health fair May 7, to mark the clinic's transition to a "patient-centered medical home."

According to Col. Patrick N. Denman, commander of LAHC, the new model of health care emphasizes partnering with patients to equip and empower them along their wellness journey -- a comprehensive care plan that goes with patients wherever the military sends them.

The transition to patient-centered care started more than a year ago and included remodeling the facility, adding more exam rooms and transitioning to team-based care.

Col. James A. Muskopf, Fort Rucker garrison commander, welcomed guests to the ribbon cutting.

"I've been here about 22 months. I'm a customer of yours. I've been in and out of this place a few times over the past 22 months and I have seen nothing but positive improvement at Lyster Army Health Clinic," he said.

Muskopf also praised the clinic for earning the National Committee for Quality Assurance's Level 3 recognition during the transition to patient-centered care, noting that Level 3 is the highest a clinic can get.

"It's not called a patient-centered medical home to be something else. That's exactly what it is," he said.

After the ribbon cutting, Denman invited guests to tour the clinic and visit the displays set up in a main hallway. This displays promoted many of the services offered at Lyster and explained some of the changes patients could expect to see. One table offered information about the significance of the NCQA recognition.

"It's national recognition for the way we operate," explained Brandy Dunn, a clinical pharmacist. "It shows we are meeting all the requirements and all the standards for a patient-centered medical home."

As a pharmacist, Dunn said she was part of a medical team that cares for patients. As a part of a team, she can be called on to visit an exam room and answer a patient's questions about medication.

"Right there, on the spot, they get their answers," she said. "They get their care and the leave safer and healthier.

Erica Hicks, a licensed practical nurse, is a proud member of medical Team Courage. She stood by a display promoting healthier choices, such as getting recommended screenings and vaccines. She said one of the things she likes most about the new patient-centered model is the ability to treat an entire Family.

"If you have a Family that comes in with a sick child and they bring two other children with them, we can treat the whole Family at that time," she said, adding that additional appointments can be made while in the exam room.

"I work here and my husband is in the military, so I can see the difference in how we are really trying to take care of families," she said. "And the upgrades are nice, too."

Though most of the clinic remodeling is complete, some areas are still waiting to see those upgrades. Sgt. Eric Johnson, a physical therapy technician, said his department is expecting to see some walls coming down within the next month.

"We're going bring in a lot of new equipment," he said. "There will be a little more elbow room for all the extra technicians and assistants, as well as providers and patients. Once it is all done it will be quite large and will rival most hospital therapy sections."

Lt. Col. Andrew A. Powell, interim deputy commander for administration of LAHC and deputy commander for nursing, said the intent of all the changes is to find out what's going on in the life of a patient -- to learn about their goals and objectives and then tailor a wellness plan for that patient's life.

"The reality is that your time in this clinic is a very small portion of time in your day, week, month or year," he said. "We are helping you understand how to take care of yourself. You are the person who is responsible for your health. We're the support."

"The bottom line is we want folks to know that we are here for you all. You are not here for us," Denman added.