Friday, November 10, 2017

Thank You, Veterans

Good morning!

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, and I want to give a heartfelt salute to all of our veterans at UMMC.  To our students, faculty and staff who wore (or wear) the uniform, not to mention family members who support those in the military, we appreciate and honor your service to our country.

veterans_2017.jpgI consider myself to be a fairly stoic individual – a character trait that served me well as an ER physician.  However, let me hear the national anthem, “America the Beautiful” or “God Bless America,” and I struggle to keep my composure.  I guess I am patriotic in that way.  I expect most veterans are, too.

In his second inaugural address, delivered just over 152 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln set the standard for the way veterans should be treated after their service in the Civil War.  Lincoln said, “Let us strive . . . to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan . . .”  Those words, which have been described as the most succinct mission statement in history, are engraved on a plaque at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C. 

Last weekend when I was in Boston for the annual meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. David Shulkin, secretary of veterans affairs, talk about the relationship between the VA and its AAMC partners as well as improvements that are underway as the VA tries to be more responsive to veterans’ medical needs and reduce wait times for appointments.  I got the sense that Dr. Shulkin, who also served in the VA under the previous administration, is on track in making needed reforms. 

One of the little-known and under-appreciated facts about the VA involves Army Gen. Omar Bradley, one of the leaders of American military forces during World War II.  After the war, Gen. Bradley was asked to head the VA, which needed to be modernized to handle the millions of veterans returning from overseas.  Among other improvements, Gen. Bradley directed that all future VA hospitals be built alongside academic medical centers, and that the institutions should be administratively linked.

That was a wise decision – one of many credited to Gen. Bradley in war and peace – that has been beneficial for VA hospitals and their affiliated AMCs in terms of workforce training and research.

UMMC’s relationship with the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery VA Medical Center and its leaders has never been stronger.  Dr. David Walker, VA medical center director for the last couple of years, and Dr. Sue Roberts, chief of staff, have been responsive to our needs, and our clinical leaders have been equally responsive in areas where the VA has needed support from time to time.  On the UMMC side, Dr. Claude Brunson, who oversees our VA relationship, and Dr. Sharon Douglas, who supervises graduate medical education at the VA hospital, are part of the equation that makes our partnership work.  Our Mississippi veterans certainly deserve the best care and service that we can possibly give.    

On this Veterans Day, at a time when our world can seem more divided, more violent, more lost than ever, I think I speak for many when I say we are grateful for our veterans.  We’re grateful that they raised their hands with the understanding that they very well could pay the ultimate price for that decision.  We’re grateful for their service and sacrifice – and the sacrifice of their families – for their belief that our country is worth fighting for. 

And we are grateful that they are part of our team, making us stronger, as we all work for A Healthier Mississippi.



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