Seventy-five years ago, there were hundreds of thousands of injured Veterans returning from World War II. With only about 1,000 doctors at the time, VA was not equipped to handle this influx of Veterans or the complicated issues they faced.
An idea was broached by VA leaders to bring academic institutions, such as medical schools, along with their senior clinicians, academicians, and trainees into partnership with the VA system to care for Veterans. This brilliant idea at once solved VA’s need for expert medical personnel. It also immediately improved both the quality of care and VA’s staffing deficit.
This arrangement also provided education for the health professions trainees who would become America’s future health care workforce. It was a win-win for both sides and has become an enduring partnership between VA and academic institutions across the country.
VA’s academic affiliations enable the highest quality of care
Over the last 75 years, VA’s mission “To educate for VA and the Nation” has grown. Its quality of and access to care has improved and expanded. We can now effectively recruit experts and trainees from our academic institutions. This provides the very highest quality of care for Veterans in our history.
I think this achievement is directly related to our affiliations with academic institutions and the quality of care that their clinicians brought to VA so many decades ago.
In the photo above, educator and trainees view medical images.
Trainees are provided with a unique experience at VA
Benefits for trainees are two-fold. First, when trainees come to VA, they are able to take care of a very unique patient population with unique comorbidities. Veterans are people who have sacrificed for and served our nation. They are very patriotic and are very willing to have trainees take care of them.
It’s a wonderful collaboration to have trainees and Veterans talking together and learning together.
Nearly 70% percent of all physicians in this country trained at VA
Over 75 years, we have taken that nucleus of an idea and expand it to every health profession. We have affiliations across all health professions, not only physicians, but also nurses, podiatrists, optometrists, and mental health professionals.
About 120,000 trainees come through VA each year and learn about Veterans. And it all started back in the 1940s with this brilliant idea: the creation of academic affiliations.
I can think of many times I’ve been with an audience and asked providers to raise their hands, indicating who has rotated through VA as part of their training. Usually two-thirds have, many of whom did not end up at VA. That linkage is important and shows that VA is providing training for the backbone for the U.S. medical system.
As we celebrate 75 years of our academic affiliations this Jan. 30, I thank the educators and trainees who have and continue to train at VA, as well as our Veterans for their participation.
It really is an incredible partnership on so many levels, providing the passion to learn and the power to heal.
Karen Sanders, MD, is the acting chief academic affiliations officer for the Office of Academic Affiliations, Veterans Health Administration.