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Director leaving Truman Veterans Hospital for job in Texas

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 | 8:05 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The director of Truman Veterans Hospital will be leaving her seventh job since she got her start in the field for a position in Texas, according to a news release from the hospital.

Sallie Houser-Hanfelder, 56, will become the director of the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System in Temple, Texas, on Aug. 11. 

Houser-Hanfelder took the opportunity to go back to the state of her birth.

"When you get to being as old as I am, and you've traveled a lot, there is something that draws you back home," Houser-Hanfelder said in an interview. 

Since her term at the hospital began on Oct. 29, 2006, Houser-Hanfelder has been instrumental in many achievements of the hospital, the release stated. Under her leadership, the facility experienced net increases in the number of employees, veterans treated and annual outpatient visits.

Truman Veterans Hospital currently serves about 37,000 veterans with a staff of about 1,300, spokesman Stephen Gaither said. The annual outpatient visit rate is about 400,000, a 30 percent increase since the 2007 fiscal year.  

"Everything we have done here or have tried to do has been successful," Houser-Hanfelder said. "For me, it's time for a challenge. Central Texas Veterans Health Care System is a larger system, serving 93,000 veterans. I'm really looking forward to that, and the warmer winters there."

Houser-Hanfelder considers the quality of patient care and safety at the facility her proudest achievement of her tenure in Columbia. 

"Providing quality health care is important, so that the veterans trust us and come back," she said. 

Her parting recommendation for the hospital is to continue working on caring for the large veteran population. 

"Our youngest veteran is 18 years old, and the oldest is 103," Houser-Hanfelder said. "All of them need individualized care across the generations. A veteran in his 20s coming back from Afghanistan needs to be treated differently from the World War II veteran in his 80s or 90s." 

"Truman will do a good job of it since the hospital has a strong culture of caring and giving," she said. "It's one of the things I love about the hospital and hope to find in Texas, too."

Her choice to serve veterans began with an internship she had in Commerce, Texas. 

"I was teaching at Texas A&M and looking for an internship," Houser-Hanfelder said. "One day this gentleman came into the political science office looking for an intern and I was the only one there. ... It was fate." 

Twenty-eight years later, her mission continues to be about serving the veterans and helping them receive quality care through hospitals and community care centers, she said. 

"I am only going to retire when I am no longer excited about what I do, and I don't think that will happen for a long time," Houser-Hanfelder said. 

Supervising editor is Katie Moritz.


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