Yale “joins forces” in veteran care

veterans_-_credit_the_white_house
Photo by The White House.

The Yale School of Medicine is joining over 100 medical schools nationwide in training their students in veteran health care.

The initiative that spurred this commitment, called Joining Forces, is a program started by First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, to mobilize the nation’s medical schools in support of military service members and their families. On Jan. 11, Joining Forces released a list of the 130 medical schools, including Yale’s, that have pledged to create a new generation of doctors, medical schools and research facilities geared towards improving the health of veterans.

School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern said that as a leading institution in veteran’s healthcare, the School of Medicine has already modified their curriculum to include diseases that affect veterans, such as classes and research in post-traumatic stress disorder. He added that more programs will be implemented, if necessary, to continue providing quality training in veterans’ health care to future doctors.

“Because of our integrated missions in education, clinical care and research, America’s medical schools are uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in this important effort,” said Darrell Kirch, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges in a Jan. 11 White House press release. “Our work with the White House on Joining Forces is a natural extension of our efforts in this area and renews our commitment to the wellness of our nation’s military.”

Karen Antman, dean of the Boston University School of Medicine, which is participating in Joining Forces, said her school has already begun planning specialized curricula for medical students that provide considerable experience with veterans’ health matters. Some of the classes that are currently offered, she said, include lectures on traumatic brain injury, military evaluation of concussion in the war zone, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Stephen Klasko, dean of the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine — another participating institution — said his school is honored to participate in the initiative to address the health care needs of military service members, veterans and their families.

“Our goal is to show these heroes that their country is there for them, no matter what they’re going through,” said Klasko. The school’s initiatives, he said, include a veterans’ reintegration program working with two Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals in Tampa Bay.

K. Robert Lewis, department service officer of the Connecticut’s American Legion chapter, said two of the most common health concerns that veterans face after returning home are post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. In the past, Lewis said, veterans with mental health needs were placed in medical institutions that housed and medicated up to 1,000 veterans with mental health conditions, so the attention they received was not as personalized as it should have been.

Lewis said he is optimistic that the program will be successful in providing health care focused more specifically on addressing the needs of the veteran community.

“We’re all this together, so we need to solve it together,” Lewis said.

In the Jan. 11 press release, Michelle Obama said she was inspired to see medical schools nationwide step up to address health care issues among veterans and their families. Directing “our brightest minds, our most cutting-edge research and our finest teaching institutions” toward this cause will ensure that veterans receive the best care possible, she said.

Joining Forces has 20 sponsors nationwide, with the American Hospital Association as its main sponsor. There were 237,696 veterans in the state of Connecticut in 2010, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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