Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH

Joining Forces to Educate Future Physicians on Military Health Issues

V eterans Day 2015 has come and gone, and I am happy to highlight many of the colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) that were able to participate in this important holiday by hosting military medicine curricular activities as a part of Joining Forces Wellness Week and AACOM's Veterans Day Curricular Initiative. However, despite looking ahead at the upcoming holiday season and the start of a new year, I can’t help but think back over recent weeks and reflect on the sacrifices of our nation’s veterans, active duty service members, and their families. What they have given to and given up for our country deserves to be saluted with resounding appreciation, and it is through our commitment to the Joining Forces Initiative (JFI) that AACOM and our member colleges aims to give back to those that have given so much.

AACOM’s pledge to the JFI includes a promise to help enrich medical education along its continuum to ensure that current and future physicians are trained in the unique clinical challenges and best practices associated with caring for military service members, veterans, and their families. Our website features a variety of curricular modules and videos developed over the past few years which serve as educational materials for medical educators. Topics such traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health conditions, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are some of the main areas of focus within these materials.

Expanding beyond the scope of undergraduate osteopathic medical education curricular development, AACOM has also partnered with several other organizations and federal entities to ensure that training in these areas continues throughout the medical education continuum—in residency programs and in continuing medical education. In recent years, I have had the honor of serving as a member of the National Academic Affiliations Council, a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Federal Advisory Council charged with matters affecting partnerships with its academic affiliates. In September, the council produced a short video where I speak about several academic affiliations with the VA.

During my years on the council, we have focused on a number of matters important to enhancing the partnership between the VA and health professions education in general, and osteopathic medical education specifically, which all share the commitment to provide high quality care, recognize the inter-dependence of patient care, education and research, and act with a strong public service ethic. More than 87 percent of all U.S. osteopathic medical schools (27 schools) have academic affiliations with the VA, and these ties are expanding.

This year, the Association has been working closely with the U.S. Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Academic Affiliations on a VA GME expansion initiative through the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA). On October 26, AACOM hosted a webinar featuring officials at the Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Academic Affiliations on this significant initiative. The webinar featured the latest information on awards for the VACAA-directed GME positions and provided guidance for the upcoming round of this initiative. Officials who presented on this webinar include:

  • Kathleen Klink, MD, Acting Director of Medical & Dental Education, Office of Academic Affiliations
  • Jennifer LeTourneau, DO, Medical & Dental Section, Office of Academic Affiliations and Academic Affiliations Officer, VISN 20
  • Edward Bope, MD, GME Affiliations Officer, Office of Academic Affiliations

Of course, AACOM’s commitment is not only to the care of veterans and their families, but also to the many osteopathic medical students, faculty, and staff who are veterans themselves, and to maintaining the strong history of DO graduates serving as military physicians. At virtually every osteopathic medical school commencement, newly-graduated DOs are commissioned into one of the branches of the military to continue their training in residency and to serve as military physicians. Read more about military activities and affiliations of the nation's COMs.

In his weekly address prior to Veterans Day 2014, President Obama declared, “Veterans have risked their lives to protect our freedom, and we need to be there for them when they return from duty by ensuring they get the care they need,” and it is with great honor and pride that AACOM and our member schools are a part of the initiative that promises to give back to the people who have given so much. Through training our nation’s physicians to meet the unique health care needs of veterans, active duty service members, and their families, we are helping to ensure that our country’s military members and their families are not forgotten, and that their exceptional sacrifices are honored.

Inside OME Header
November 2015
Vol. 9, No. 11