During Hepatitis Awareness Month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) celebrates the work of our hepatitis C providers, who are curing thousands of Veterans of this virus. More than 2.4 million Americans live with hepatitis C, a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no vaccine, but early detection and treatment are highly effective. VA is successfully working to reduce infection rates among the Veteran population through out-of-the-box care practices involving prevention, treatment and education.
Long Do is one such VA career professional innovating in hepatitis C care. As a hepatology pharmacist for VA Portland Health Care System (VA Portland HCS), he recently recommended including hepatitis C flyers in all prescription bags at the pharmacy. The idea, implemented with the support of leadership, directly led to increased testing and treatment rates among Portland Veterans.
In this installment of our #ChooseVA Careers blog series, Do talks about the important work he’s doing in hepatology, the immense benefits offered by VA and the rewarding nature of his career.
What is your primary job at VA?
I oversee the treatment of hepatitis C (HCV) at VA Portland HCS. I am also involved with assisting our sister stations — like Roseburg VA and White City VA — in treating HCV. Outside of HCV care, I also manage patients who have hepatitis B, fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.
I also serve as a member of the Hepatitis Innovation Team (HIT), Advanced Liver Disease Technical Advisory Group (ALD TAG) and a faculty member of Veterans Integrated Services Network (VISN) 20 ECHO-GI.
My areas of specialty are viral hepatitis treatment and pharmacology. I am able to use my expertise to appropriately treat Veterans with viral hepatitis. I am also able to adjust the patient’s medications based on the severity of liver disease to prevent adverse events from inappropriate use of medications.
What was appealing about a career at VA?
As a pharmacist, VA allows me to work at the top of my license and expand my scope of practice. I am able to see patients independently and manage them from beginning to end. In addition to my duties as a pharmacist, I am able to do things like perform liver fibroscans, help develop registries for HCV and fatty liver disease, and assist in our facility’s public health efforts.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
There are many rewarding aspects to what I do here at the hepatology clinic. I am able to help cure our Veterans of a disease that many of them thought was incurable. We have had numerous Veterans tell us how thankful they are that we were able to help remove the fear and stigma that they carried with them for decades.
I am also very proud of our clinic’s efforts in reaching out to Veterans for treatment rather than waiting for them to come to us. Not only do we target Veterans within our catchment area who are already connected to care, but we also reach out to Veterans who are either homeless, lost to follow up or who live in remote areas — even if they are not within our catchment area.
Unfortunately, we saw that geography can dictate the quality of care a Veteran receives. Our mission is to help make sure our Veterans can receive optimal healthcare regardless of their situation. Every Veteran we reach makes my job that much more fulfilling
How has VA helped you grow your career?
With help from the leadership teams in pharmacy and hepatology, I’ve been able to practice at the top of my scope. They have encouraged me to venture outside of my comfort zone — doing the fibroscans, helping develop clinical registries, treating patients remotely, doing rapid testing for HCV. I have been able to grow and better myself each and every year I’ve worked at VA.
What are a few key benefits of working with VA?
VA retirement benefits are very competitive, especially if you can maximize the benefits by participating fully in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and taking advantage of the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) bonus. As VA employees, we also have the flexibility to transfer to a different location with ease. I am also able to work toward reducing my student loans at VA through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
What do you find most surprising about working at VA?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised, especially since starting my hepatology job, by the number of resources available to our Veterans. Before my career at VA, I was under the impression that care in VA was limited, and that the Veterans were being underserved. I’ve since learned that there are various resources that VA provides for our Veterans beyond medical care such as housing assistance, substance use treatment and career development.
We have even improved access for our Veterans to community-based resources, to make sure they are getting the care they need without having to wait or travel long distances. This is especially important for our team as hepatology is not available at every site in VISN 20.
What would you tell other healthcare professionals who are interested in choosing a career at VA?
I often tell people about all of the exciting new opportunities at VA. Our pharmacy department has grown significantly over the past few years.
I would strongly encourage other healthcare professionals to consider choosing a career at VA. In my experience, VA provides a great combination of competitive retirement and health benefits, prospects for career advancements and opportunities to make a difference in the lives of our Veterans.
Choose VA today
Choose a VA career for the meaningful opportunities and unbeatable benefits. See if a VA career as a pharmacist is right for you.