UCSF OHNS Faculty Provide Quality Care for Veterans at the San Francisco VA Medical Center

November 4, 2022

"Our veterans have served our country. Providing health care is one service that we owe to our veterans," says Steven Pletcher, MD, a professor of clinical otolaryngology at the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF OHNS).

That sentiment is what motivates Dr. Pletcher to practice part time at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC), a veterans affairs hospital that has been affiliated with UCSF for nearly 60 years.

The SFVAMC offers comprehensive otolaryngology care by UCSF faculty members, who include fellowship-trained surgeons in Otology/Neurotology, Head and Neck Oncologic Surgery, Facial Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery, Laryngology and Rhinology/Skull Base Surgery. The SFVAMC care staff consists of 6 part-time faculty, including Dr. Pletcher, two full-time residents and a physician assistant — all of whom are supported by the faculty at UCSF OHNS who assist with emergency call coverage and specialty-specific consultation.

"With this accomplished team of clinicians, we are able to care for both the routine and the most complex surgical cases within our VA system," says Dr. Pletcher. 

The patient population at SFVAMC include veterans, but can also include the spouses and caregivers of veterans. They come from the Bay Area and northern California — and beyond, for complex referral cases.

"Our service has grown recently in the care of patients with sleep apnea," says Dr. Pletcher. "We are one of the few [VA] Centers that implants hypoglossal nerve stimulators for this condition."

The SFVAMC is a 1a complexity level facility with 112 beds and is one of just seven VA medical centers that is recognized as a Center of Excellence in Primary Care Education.

The San Francisco VA Health Care System runs the largest funded research program in the Veterans Health Administration with $81 million in research expenditures in the 2019 fiscal year. UCSF OHNS's Steven Cheung, MD, has successfully obtained and executed multiple grants related to tinnitus and phantom perceptions, contributing to the SFVAMC research success. 

Other major areas of research at the SFVAMC include lung disease, pain management, sleep disorders, telemedicine, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and more. The center has a partnership with the Department of Defense to study the neuroscience and neuroimaging of combat-related brain injuries and PTSD.