UH medical school taking part in JOINING FORCES to improve care for military

The University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) is taking part in Joining Forces to improve health care for the country’s active duty military, veterans and their families.

JABSOM, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) intend to create a new generation of doctors, medical schools, and research facilities that will make sure our military heroes receive care worthy of their service.

“We are honored to participate in the White House Joining Forces initiative to address the health care needs of military service members and veterans and their families,” said Dr. Jerris Hedges, JABSOM Dean. “We are working to develop additional curriculum for our medical students and researchers to better serve those who have served our country for so long.”

Professor of Surgery Larry Burgess, MD

Hedges said Retired U.S. Army Colonel Larry Burgess, MD, Professor of Surgery and Director of the Telehealth Research Institute, will coordinate JABSOM’s response.

“Our medical school has a long history of collaboration with the military and their dependents in understanding the unique challenges faced by deploying soldiers and their families during and after deployment,” explains Dr. Burgess, noting that many of JABSOM’s physicians in training and medical students complete rotations at Tripler Army Medical Center and Veterans Affairs medical centers and outpatient clinics.  This gives trainees a first-hand experience in understanding the problems experienced by the military and veterans.

Dr. Burgess explains that, with the advent of Joining Forces, JABSOM is modifying its medical school curriculum to refocus its research and clinical trials, particularly those involving Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).  For example, in the past, medical students would study the symptoms of a hypothetical 35-year-old male patient suffering from TBI after being involved in a terrible car accident.  Now medical students studying TBI may be told that the 35-year-old male patient was riding in a Humvee in Afghanistan when a roadside bomb exploded, and then asked what other social support services are available locally and nationally for the military patient.

It’s a natural outgrowth for JABSOM to become more involved in the treatment of military veterans, because its Ho`oikaika (“to strive”) program already assists both military and civilians in managing PTSD and TBI. As described by Ho‘oikaika Project Director Robin Brandt, PhD, “Our mission is to help individuals with TBI to access social services and achieve greater independence through peer mentoring.”

Joining Forces is the largest coordinated commitment from America’s medical colleges to support veterans and military families. Since 2000, the U.S. Defense Department estimates nearly 213,000 military personnel have suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, after more than 10 years of war.

In an announcement in Richmond, Virginia, First Lady Michelle Obama said, “I’m inspired to see our nation’s medical schools step up to address this pressing need for our veterans and military families. By directing some of our brightest minds, our most cutting-edge research, and our finest teaching institutions toward our military families, they’re ensuring that those who have served our country receive the first-rate care that they have earned.”  SEE MRS. OBAMA’S ANNOUNCEMENT ON YOUTUBE.

The AAMC placed a full-page advertisement listing the cooperation of JABSOM and other schools in newspapers close to the nation’s capitol. SEE THE AAMC’s JOINING FORCES advertisement

Mahalo to UH Mānoa Communications Director Diane Chang and Public Information officer Dyan Kleckner for significantly contributing to this news story.

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