Students learn health needs of rural vets

March 11, 2013

As students in the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine‘s Rural Scholars Program know, access to health care can be a challenge in isolated rural areas.  Recently, these future physicians learned about the special challenges faced by military veterans living in rural areas.

Four speakers from the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department visited campus recently to educate students about the V.A.’s role and how they can help patients integrate V.A. benefits into their health care. Participating in a panel discussion on the UNTHSC campus were:

  • Tyrone Hunter, LMSW, LCDC, a social worker in the Dallas V.A. clinic
  • Mary Nix, Medical Administration Specialist in the V.A.’s Bonham community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC)
  • Elizabeth Dannel, Bonham CBOC clinic manager
  • Mary Sweeney, Nurse Practitioner in the Fort Worth V.A. clinic.

Event organizer A. Cage, DO, Associate Professor, Department of Medical Education, who teaches in the Rural Scholars program, stressed the importance of asking about military service when taking a patient’s history. He also said that while 10 percent of the U.S. population over age 18 has served in the military, only 40 percent of these veterans receive any health care from the V.A. Thus, it’s likely a non-V.A. physician will treat veterans, who are at higher risk for conditions such as traumatic brain injury, PTSD and chronic multisymptom illness (CMI).

UNTHSC has a lengthy association with the military. In 2001, Ronald R. Blanck, DO, became the Health Science Center’s fourth president after serving as the highest-ranking physician in the armed forces, the surgeon general of the U.S. Army and commander of the U.S. Army Medical Command. For several consecutive years, UNTHSC has been designated Military Friendly by G.I. Jobs magazine.  Currently, UNTHSC has 40 students who are veterans. In the past six years, a total of 29 TCOM graduates were commissioned to the military.

In the community, TCOM has played an active role in the care of veterans.  At the Fort Worth V.A. outpatient clinic, Dzung Le, DO (‘95) serves as medical director.  Third- and fourth-year TCOM students perform rotations in psychiatry, and physician assistant students perform rotations as well.

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