Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Miami VA Healthcare System Takes On Inclusive and Welcoming Healthcare for All Veterans

By Joseph Zolobczuk, MS Ed., Director of Education & Research 

Rachel Sottile, Executive Director, facilitates dialogue.

The Veterans Education Committee at the Miami VA Healthcare System is committed to leading the way in providing inclusive and competent care for all Veterans. As part of this initiative, they invited YES Institute to facilitate a two-hour dialogue on gender and orientation. More than 30 personnel including physicians, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and heads of departments participated.

Two YES Institute volunteer speakers, both of whom are Veterans, shared how their experiences around gender and orientation impacted their service and took questions from the hospital staff.

On September 20, 2011, the armed forces mandate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was overturned. Months before on June 9, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) had already issued a directive providing for “respectful delivery of health care to transgender and intersex Veterans”.

Even though military and public opinion is shifting, these changes are only a starting point in addressing barriers to care. Considering a recent JAMA article, 75% of medical schools surveyed in the US and Canada rated themselves "fair," "poor," or "very poor" on the integration of gender and orientation content in undergraduate medical school training.

Comments from the staff included:

“I learned the importance of open dialogue with those who hold rigid beliefs even if they are different from mine.”

“One of the most important things I can do is use the pronoun and name the person wants to be known by.”

“I’m going to share what I learned today. We need more seminars like this if we’re going to make a real difference for our Veterans.”

YES Institute looks forward to supporting the efforts of the Veterans Education Committee as they work to meet the needs of all Veterans and their families.

Jim Gross, a US Veteran and YES Institute volunteer, shares his story.

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