This year, the Veterans Health Administration is celebrating 75 years of service to Veterans while also forming a new vision for the future of health care. It’s also the 75th anniversary for VHA’s Office of Academic Affiliations (OAA).
Through OAA, VHA partners with medical schools, universities and colleges to provide training programs at VHA facilities. As a result of that partnership, VA Bedford Healthcare System’s graduate medical education programs have a renewed focus on leading-edge training in geriatrics.
This includes training for non-specialists, pain and addiction medicine, and interprofessional education and collaboration.
VA Bedford was a preferred destination for training in the associated health professions, psychiatry and fellowship geriatrics in the early 2000s.
Pictured above, residents and interns of VA Bedford’s Geriatric Evaluation and Management unit celebrate the completion of their rotation in 2019. From left to right: Dr. Jawad Husain, Boston University Medical Center Psychiatry intern on medicine rotation; Dr. Philip Tsoukas, Lahey Hospital Internal Medicine resident on geriatrics rotation; Dr. Adi Rattner, Boston University Medical Center Family Medicine resident on geriatrics rotation; and Dr. Kristin Palmer, VA Bedford physical therapist.
VA hospitals allied with teaching institutions
Locating Veterans’ hospitals near medical schools was a fundamental part of Gen. Omar Bradley’s vision to reform Veterans’ hospitals, allying them with teaching institutions and, where and when possible, incorporating residencies and internships in these hospitals.
Despite little administrative or education infrastructure, or professional development for clinician-educators, residents filled 15 positions from two academic affiliates, training in what had become a sought-after apprenticeship model.
VA plays a key leadership role in defining the education of future health care professionals to meet the changing needs of America’s health care system. Almost 70 percent of the country’s health care providers receive medical training at a VA facility. The skills and knowledge they learn from VA are implemented in hospitals and clinics across the country.
Choice Act provided 1,500 new positions
In 2014, President Obama signed the Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act. The act allowed VA to add up to 1,500 new positions over five years. Grants administered by OAA between 2015 and 2018 awarded VA Bedford seven additional resident positions in family and internal medicine.
VA Bedford is a preferred destination for fellowship geriatrics.
There was also infrastructure support for a designated education officer, a dedicated site director and a training specialist.
To realize these revitalized health professions programs, VA Bedford realigned resources in six areas.
VA Bedford won additional infrastructure and graduate medical education enhancement grants over the ensuing three years. This brought another six resident positions to the facility
They also provided needed support for space renovation, program administration and supplies for teaching, teaching awards and professional development activities.
VA trained clinicians employ VA standards of care
VA develops new standards of care for health conditions commonly experienced by Veterans. And VA-trained clinicians continue to employ these innovations as they care for non-Veteran patients throughout their careers.
Voices of Health Professions
Here is a short video of comments from health professions trainees about their time at VA Bedford Healthcare System highlighting their education and training.
The facility now hosts twenty-nine resident positions from six academic affiliates. Funding has resulted in markedly improved fiscal accountability, administrative infrastructure, on-boarding processes and relationships with academic affiliates.
VA Bedford education leadership seeks to ensure all rotations’ learning objectives, educational activities and means of assessment are cognitive science-based, aligned and shared with participating trainees.
Funding and OAA support have resulted in an institutional “Commitment to a Learning and Teaching Culture of Excellence.” This change is manifest throughout the VA Bedford Healthcare System and the region.
Veteran health care consistent with best standards of care
Bradley’s strategy of supporting close relationships with schools of medicine to facilitate recruitment of well-trained physicians on a large scale remains ideal.
It ensures Veterans’ health care remains consistent with the best standards of care. It also establishes an environment in which research and education specific to issues in Veterans’ health can flourish.
VHA is an organization that allows health care providers to practice innovative, ground-breaking health care.
If you are looking to pursue mission-driven work, serving those who have served our country, visit vacareers.va.gov to explore options in your area.
Dr. James L. Meisel is the VA Bedford associate chief of staff for education. Kat Bailey is the VA Bedford public affairs chief.