My Patients Are Heroes: The Honor of Serving Those Who Have Served (Guest Blog By Dr Deborah Fisher, MD, MHS)

Dr Campbell’s blog about inspirational patients appropriately enough inspired me to speak of my patients.  As I have previously stated my patients are Heroes.  As Veteran’s Day approaches I would like to expand on that a bit more.  A vanishing proportion of the general public has served or has a direct family connection to someone who served in the military. As the NY Times reported almost a year ago,  in the past decade, at any given time less than 1% of the US population was on active military duty compared to 9% in World War II.  Only a third of Americans aged 18 to 29 years have an immediate family member who served in the military.

To help us better understand and serve those who have served, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has sponsored an award winning program of Military Cultural Awareness Training for its VA employees.  The program has several elements.  There is a web-based module that includes background information on the military branches and individual stories of Veterans.  It was easily my favorite module of all that I have taken (and trust me I complete over a dozen each fiscal year).  The program also included a field trip to a military base.  In my case, it was Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, NC.  We had a wonderful and informative time trying out the Chinook Flight Simulator, talking to a member of the Golden Knights (parachute team) and visiting the base.  Most surprising to us was that all the servicemen and women would thank us for taking care of Veterans when we all wanted to thank them for their sacrifice and service.

In addition to the inspiration my patients give me in clinic and when I attend on the wards, this population is a wonderful partner in research.  VHA prides itself on funding and supporting research that is then applied in a timely fashion to improve our health care delivery to Veterans and the health outcomes of Veterans.  Of course this would not be possible If Veterans did not volunteer to participate in research.  It should not come as a surprise, that this altruistic group of Heroes is very supportive of research participation as well. In my current study up to 80% of Veterans approached are interested in participating.

So thank you for the inspiration as a physician and a researcher and for giving me the opportunity to serve those who have served.

This entry is a guest blog by Deborah Fisher, MD, MHS, The extra letters after the MD indicate that she spent time getting yet another degree (in clinical research). She is a gastroenterologist and outcomes researcher at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke University. She is married to the President and CEO of KROC Consulting, LLC and carries the empty title of Vice President. On the other hand, she is the my wife and the benevolent dictator of the Campbell household. The blog represents her views and not those of the Federal Government or Duke University.

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