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

An educator and trainees simulate CPR on a mannequin.

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.

Find out more about VHA’s academic mission and anniversary by watching this video and visiting the Office of Academic Affiliations’ recently updated website.


Karen Sanders, MD, is the acting chief academic affiliations officer for the Office of Academic Affiliations, Veterans Health Administration.

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Sign at entrance to VA Washington DC2021: Veterans Health Administration's 75th anniversary

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6 Comments

  1. Mark Kreatz February 26, 2021 at 2:08 am

    VA’s academic affiliations enable the highest quality of care *** FALSE ADVERTISING***
    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. ***FALSE*** Most Veterans are not given a choice and are stuck with inexperienced trainees and the outcomes are horrible resulting in severe injuries or death. Unsupervised trainee puts a needle in Veterans eye and hits the plunger blowing his eye out of his head, result law suit. Unsupervised trainee puts a feeding tube down Veterans airway and kills him, result law suit. Unsupervised trainee is allowed to due surgery, slipped and poked a hole through Veterans skull.
    120,000 trainees per year, many unsupervised resulting in severe injuries or death to people who have sacrificed for and served our nation. The VA tries to hide the truth!

  2. Laurie Grassl January 29, 2021 at 10:07 pm

    Best place to file your claim is with the Disabled American Veterans. Take your DD-214 and your surgical report. They will assist you in processing the paperwork needed to start your claim.

  3. Mike Gibson January 28, 2021 at 12:31 am

    I advise all veterans to seek out the veterans advocates at their VA hospitals and get to know them. They are the heart of the VA system trust me. An advocate at Jackson’s Va hospital in Mississippi named Jennice Johnson helped me over come the VISN 16 denial of payments for a procedure that was ordered by the VA. Use these folks as a resource because they know the system intimately. They will go to bat for you when no one else will. My advise to the Director is talk to these folks they know the failures of VA better than anyone and have corrected a ton of bad decisions by administration. I didn’t use the VA for a along time and now it is the only health care I have as a Vietnam combat veteran. The system is flawed but a good administrator could make it work much more efficiently. We have seen veteran administration make the system stagnant and fail to meet our needs so give this director a chance to prove himself and we can judge his actions and performance by the results he gives us

  4. Mike Gibson January 28, 2021 at 12:06 am

    UAMS at Little Rock did my heart surgery and has been trying to get paid since August. VA needs to make CCN more effective in paying these med schools that have been putting up with the VA system that takes total advantage of their relationship with the best medical services in the state. I am a Vietnam combat veteran that is worried the VA is going to lose the cooperation of these top notch medical services for veterans because they use United Health care and Optima and other insurance companies that make their living denying claims as long as they can before legal options are brought to bear. I hope the new Director will penalize these companies or block them from serving veterans. CCN needs to be more responsive to the veterans under their care and show efficiency or develop a program that functions in a more efficient manner. I used employment insurance for over 40+ years before Congress acknowledged all the disease that herbicides cause in humans. We don’t worry that the Director is going to sell us down the road because he’s not a veteran but by his actions.

  5. Paul Leonard Mifsud January 27, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    Can I help?

  6. Mike Abril January 27, 2021 at 2:14 pm

    This is a great milestone to reach in the VA along with our partners in the private/public sectors. Keep up the good work Academic Affiliations Team!

Comments are closed.