VA Maryland Health Care System Celebrates 75 Years of VA Health Administration

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The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) turns 75 this year, and the VA Maryland Health Care System is kicking off its year-long observance. After World War II when it needed to respond to 13 million returning veterans, VA stepped up care and established the Department of Medicine and Surgery in 1946. This formed the foundation of today’s Veterans Health Administration’s evidence-based approach to meeting veterans’ unique health care needs with world-class professionals and researchers collaborating to ensure that VA health care keeps pace with the changing needs of veterans from every era and at every stage of life. At the same time it created the Department of Medicine and Surgery, VA began its partnerships with academic centers and its voluntary service programs that enabled community members to participate in the service to veterans.

“Because of our partnerships, VA has become a leader in the development of the concept of multidisciplinary teams of professionals delivering health care,” said Jonathan Eckman, director of the VA Maryland Health Care System.

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) turns 75 this year, and the VA Maryland Health Care System is kicking off its year-long observance. After World War II when it needed to respond to 13 million returning veterans, VA stepped up care and established the Department of Medicine and Surgery in 1946. This formed the foundation of today’s Veterans Health Administration’s evidence-based approach to meeting veterans’ unique health care needs with world-class professionals and researchers collaborating to ensure that VA health care keeps pace with the changing needs of veterans from every era and at every stage of life. At the same time it created the Department of Medicine and Surgery, VA began its partnerships with academic centers and its voluntary service programs that enabled community members to participate in the service to veterans.

This year—2021—marks the 75th year of VA health care with VHA now operating one of the largest health care systems in the world. It also marks the 75th anniversary of its robust partnerships with academic centers. Because of its affiliations with academic partners, VA provides training for a majority of America’s medical, nursing and allied professionals. Roughly 60 percent of all medical residents obtain a portion of their training at a VA medical center and its medical research programs benefit society at large.

“VA is more than just another government agency. Our mission is to serve veterans, and the VA Maryland Health Care System joins more than 100 VA medical centers across the nation where thousands of employees work hard to deliver world-class health care services in a healing environment while also emphasizing preventive medicine and proactive care,” said Jonathan Eckman, director of the VA Maryland Health Care System. “As a veteran, I am proud of being part of this nearly century long endeavor that is constantly improving itself.”

The partnership with the academic centers encompasses education, training and research, enabling VA to build a diversified pipeline of health care professionals in nearly 40 professions, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, social workers and psychologists, among others. The VA Maryland Health Care System is primarily affiliated with the University of Maryland School of Medicine, but also partners with many other local colleges and universities. Over 2,000 clinical trainees in a variety of health and human service professions are trained throughout the health care system each year. The affiliation with University of Maryland School of Medicine and other academic partnerships allows the health care system to offer veterans the latest clinical practices and procedures, hire the brightest clinicians at the onset of their careers, and stay current with the most cutting edge best practices.

The partnerships proved especially prescient during the pandemic when trainees consistently stepped in with their time and talent enabling the health care system to provide high quality care while also playing an integral role in the response efforts. The clinical trainees helped develop an inpatient iPad program that enabled trainee clinicians to request an iPad for their COVID-19 positive patients to facilitate initial and interim history taking consultations, conduct goals of care conversations, and participate in family meetings about treatment plans.

“We are proud of our academic affiliations. It has led to the development of new health care disciplines, new treatment modalities, and recognized specialties, such as our collaboration in geriatrics, addiction psychiatry, and the work conducted in our Centers of Excellence,” Eckman said. “Because of our partnerships, VA has become a leader in the development of the concept of multidisciplinary teams of professionals delivering health care,” he added.

Such collaboration also supports the VA Maryland Health Care System’s robust research and development program, one of the largest in the VA system. It includes studies in diabetes, immunology, oncology, virology, cellular biology, infectious diseases and many more. A Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, one of only 21 in the VA system nationwide, conducts research on the prevention of stroke and cardiovascular disease through exercise and nutrition therapy in older veterans. In response to a growing demand for specialized care for veterans with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), the Baltimore VA Medical Center coordinates one of only two MS Centers of Excellence throughout the VA. The center is responsible for facilitating clinical care, research and education for patients with MS in the eastern part of the country. The Baltimore VA Medical Center is also the home base for one of VA’s ten Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Centers. This program is dedicated to improving the provision of health care to veterans suffering from severe mental illness, with a special emphasis on the treatment of individuals with schizophrenia. Because of its strong research and development efforts, the Baltimore VA Medical Center was selected as one of 17 VA medical centers throughout the country to conduct the clinical studies of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

The VA Maryland Health Care System consists of three inpatient facilities—the Baltimore, Loch Raven and Perry Point VA Medical Centers—and five community based outpatient clinic—the Cambridge, East Baltimore County, Fort Meade, Glen Burnie and Pocomoke City VA Outpatient Clinics. The health care system is dedicated to serving veterans in Central Maryland—Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Baltimore City, Carroll, Harford and Howard Counties—and Maryland’s Eastern Shore—Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester Counties. It offers comprehensive care with an array of programs and services that are designed to meet the unique needs of veterans. Nationally recognized for its outstanding patient safety and cutting-edge technology, the VA Maryland Health Care System is proud of its reputation as a leader in veterans’ health care, research and education. For the convenience of Veterans who live in remote areas, the health care system offers and variety of telehealth services including virtual mental and primary care appointments and virtual meeting spaces where veterans can exercise and participate in group gatherings.

“The VA Maryland Health Care System is honored to recognize VHA’s 75 years of dedicated service to our nation’s veterans, and we look forward to providing safe, quality and compassionate care to Maryland’s veterans for the next 75 years and beyond,’’

The VA Maryland Health Care System (VAMHCS) provides a broad spectrum of medical, surgical, rehabilitative, mental health and outpatient care to veterans at three medical centers and five outpatient clinics located throughout the state. More than 52,000 veterans from various generations receive care from VAMHCS annually. Nationally recognized for its state-of-the-art technology and quality patient care, VAMHCS is proud of its reputation as a leader in veterans’ health care, research and education. It costs nothing for veterans to enroll for health care with the VA Maryland Health Care System and it could be one of the more important things a veteran can do. To enroll for VA health care, interested veterans can call 877-222-8387 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or they can visit http://www.va.gov and clinic on “Apply now for VA health care.”

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Rosalia Scaclia
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