Guevara and medical center 30 years older

  • Published
  • By Merrie Schilter-Lowe
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – There probably isn’t a door or square-inch of space that Felix Guevara has not touched inside the 808,000 square-foot David Grant USAF Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base during the past 30 years.

On weekdays, Guevara begins his shift at 2 a.m. repairing, replacing and repainting sheet rock inside DGMC. He is also responsible for the two Fisher Houses, dental clinic, clinical investigative facility and the Veteran’s Administration Clinic. 

“We started out with seven painters, now we have only three,” said Guevara. “There’s only one person who has been here as long as me and I’m the only one who paints signs.”  

Every year, he paints an average of 100 information, directional and office signs for the DGMC campus.    

In 1988, Guevara was the first employee hired by the original contractor who provided operations and maintenance and construction services, as well as healthcare environmental services for the medical center.  His maintenance contract at the base passenger terminal was expiring so his supervisor urged him to apply for a position at DGMC. 

“She told me to go; they will hire you. They did,” said Guevara. 

This year, DGMC celebrates its 30th year in building 777 after moving from building 381, which was known as “the Hospital on the Hill,” in October 1988.

Guevara was awestruck by the size of DGMC and the hyperbaric chamber the medical center was built around.     

“I didn’t know what the heck they were building,” said Guevara. “I didn’t even think it was part of the base.”     

Guevara has worked for 10 supervisors and served under 14 commanders, including the first and only African American commander – Brig. Gen. Leonard Randolph from 1994 to 1997 – and the first woman commander – Col. Kristen Beals who arrived in July. 

“I’ve stayed on because of the people,” he said. “The staff and commanders have been great.”

One of Guevara’s most memorable moments was the sight of 20 Air Force generals from around the Air Force touring DGMC en masse the week before inpatients were moved to the new facility.     

“It was a state-of-art building back then,” said Guevara. “You could see that they were very impressed.”

The new DGMC consolidated 19 buildings scattered around the base – some as far as a mile from the main facility – into one modern complex housing more than 3,500 rooms.  It was the first major Air Force medical facility built from the ground up and designed to play a major role in casualty receiving and patient treatment during contingency operations in the Pacific Theater.

Today, the facilities management team ensures that DGMC continues to operate with precision, both inside and outside.    

“I like to tell people that DGMC is our patient,” said Jeanne Tuttle, facilities management director. “We make sure it is healthy and operating at its full capacity.”

Tuttle’s team oversees the contractor who now employs Guevara, J&J Worldwide Services. They are responsible for everything on the 44-acre campus, including landscaping, minor construction, environmental services and the central energy plant.

DGMC has undergone several multi-million dollar renovations in the last 20 years to accommodate the latest technologies, changing medical practices and to become more patient-centered.   

For example, the emergency department was upgraded to serve an aging veteran population, to replace treatment bays and to provide individual patient treatment rooms that not only provide privacy, but also reduce the risk of spreading airborne pathogens. 

A state-of-the art surgery center was expanded from eight to nine operating rooms. Oral surgery, the women’s health clinic and heart, lung and vascular clinic as well as the intensive care unit were also updated. 

The dining facility, originally designed to feed about 200 people, was renovated to accommodate more than 700, including staff members, patients and their families.  Additionally, outpatient services such as pharmacy, laboratory and radiology, were centralized into a patient-centered mall. 

According to Tuttle, future projects include doubling the size of the satellite pharmacy in the base exchange mini-mall, right-sizing the Pediatrics Clinic and Brace Shop and modernizing the joint radiation oncology department.

“It was a state-of-the-art building back then and, with the millions of dollars in upgrades, it is still state-of-the-art,” said Guevara.

Guevara should know.  He’s been there to witness the transformation.