More than 75 years ago, as the Department of Veterans Affairs prepared to welcome home more than 100,000 World War II veteran patients, VA hospitals and medical schools across the country developed a plan without precedent to associate. The plan had three goals – to recruit doctors for the VA, train the nation’s next generation of medical professionals, and provide world-class care to our nation’s veterans. This decision would have a lasting impact on our health system.
Today, VA is the largest training platform for healthcare professionals in the country. The Academic Mission of VA is a vast clinical training enterprise that reaches all segments of society, from patients in metropolitan hospitals to underserved communities in the most remote areas of rural america. It is an endeavor carried out in collaboration with more than 1,400 colleges, including 99% of the medical schools in the country, which produce approximately 113,000 future health professionals each year. Nearly 70% of American physicians complete their VA training, contributing directly to the quality and access to veterans’ health care and health care nationwide.
VA trains students and residents at more than 150 VA medical centers across the country in more than 60 health professions, including pharmacy, nursing, general and specialty medicine, and dentistry. VA provides more than 50% of accredited psychology postgraduate training programs and 33% of dental residency programs nationwide. Each year, more than 16,000 nursing students complete their education at VA. This extensive, nationwide training platform helps ensure that medical schools, colleges and universities have enough suitable locations for their students and residents to complete their training.
Some of the major benefits of VA training stem from our focus on interprofessional collaboration in health care, a major healthcare reform strategy that has been shown to improve patient outcomes. This model provides VA with the opportunity to fulfill its mission of improving the quality of care for veterans while VA develops the best and brightest healthcare professionals – many of whom choose VA careers. In fact, 80% of VA optometrists, 70% of VA psychologists and podiatrists, and 60% of VA physicians have participated in VA training programs.
Nationally, VA has been at the forefront of recognizing and promoting accreditation for new and emerging health care disciplines for the benefit of all Americans. Specialties such as psychology, Geriatric medicine, palliative care and traumatic brain injury have become an integral part of the healthcare landscape. Strong residencies in health fields such as podiatry, social work and drug therapy are also innovations directly related to AV.
As VA moves forward in expanding specialty programs, we are also working to deepen our affiliations with minority-serving institutions, such as historically black colleges and universities. These efforts allow us to build a future healthcare workforce that reflects our veteran population and is equipped to adapt and meet our diverse and ever-changing public health needs.
Needless to say, the past two years have presented the most difficult global pandemic of our existence. Our VA trainees, such as medical residents and nursing fellows and trainees working in our medical, surgical, and critical care units, have played a vital role in providing care to our veterans. Now the Association of American Medical Schools reports that medical school enrollment is at an all-time high. VA is ready to train these future healthcare professionals in our hospitals, preparing them to provide face-to-face care and use the latest advances in modalities such as telehealth.
The VA’s academic mission is essential to veterans and the nation. By developing and training highly skilled and diverse trainees in health professions in partnership with our academic affiliates, we improve the quality of care for veterans and strengthen equity in the delivery of care. Additionally, by involving trainees in veteran care, our future healthcare professionals complete their training with a deep appreciation for the brave who have served our country.
Learn more about VA’s mission to train healthcare professionals and partnership opportunities at VA Office of Academic Affiliations.
Dr. Steven L. Lieberman, MD, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health, serving as delegated duties of Under Secretary of Health, Veterans Health Administration. Dr. Lieberman directs VHA, the nation’s largest integrated healthcare system, managing a budget of more than $87 billion and overseeing the care of 9 million veterans. Dr. Lieberman is a Board Certified Pulmonary and Critical Care Physician and has over 25 years of VA experience.
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