Joining Forces

November 07, 2013

As we head into a long weekend that celebrates Veterans Day, I want to thank the more than 100 military veterans in our faculty, staff and student body for their service. I also want to thank those who are still serving, including police officers Gary DeMoss and Gaspare Costabile, and safety and security officer Phillip Loth, all of whom are in the Active Reserves. As a veteran myself, I can identify with the dedication and commitment that comes with serving in the United States military.

Our schools of medicine, nursing and health professions play an important role in meeting the health needs of veterans, service members and families. In fact, the military is a key ally in our missions of education, research, clinical care and community engagement.

For more than 60 years, the KU School of Medicine has been a partner medical school for the Kansas City Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Missouri. This is one of the oldest medical school/VA affiliations in the nation. The Kansas City campus also partners with the VA medical centers in Topeka and Leavenworth, while the Wichita campus partners with the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita. These centers are crucial to our students' education. Medical students rotate at the VA medical center in several areas, including psychiatry, neurology and surgery, and the VA has helped us in residency and fellowship training as well. In fact, medical staff members at VA hospitals hold School of Medicine faculty appointments for training over 80 of our residents at any one time. In the School of Health Professions, some clinical laboratory science students get hands-on experience at the VA in Kansas City during their senior years.

KU Medical Center's research includes projects that may someday benefit veterans. For example, Janet Pierce, a professor in the School of Nursing, is studying the effects of co-enzyme Q10 on oxidative stress produced during hemorrhagic shock. Her research is sponsored by a Department of Defense grant. I also want to thank Dr. Pierce for her service: She spent 25 years in the U.S. Naval Reserves and retired as captain in 2012.

Randolph Nudo, a professor of molecular and integrative physiology, is also doing research funded by the Department of Defense. Dr. Nudo is developing a brain repair microdevice which holds great promise for treating traumatic brain injury and stroke. The microdevice is an implant that generates electrical impulses. Electrodes detect the signals from the brain, decode them and then stimulate the area of the brain that has become disconnected. The Department of Defense hopes the device can help veterans with traumatic brain injuries.

KU Medical Center helps provide targeted health care for service members and their families through various outreach efforts, including the Center for Child Health and Development, which runs outreach clinics at the Army's Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley installations. These clinics help children of military personnel get diagnostic evaluations for stress and psychological problems.

These are just a few examples of our military-related work, and we know there are opportunities to do more. Kansas is home to nearly 227,000 veterans, and there are more than 21.5 million in the United States. More returning veterans will leave military service in the coming years, so now is the ideal time to expand our efforts to help our nation's veterans. 

That's why KU Medical Center and more than 100 medical schools nationwide have become a part of the American Association of Medical College's (AAMC) "Joining Forces" effort, a national initiative started by first lady Michelle Obama to give service members and their families the support they have earned.

I'd like to thank Cary Savage, director of the Center for Health Behavior Neuroscience, and the John H. Wineinger Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, who volunteered to serve as the faculty liaison to the AAMC in this project. Dr. Savage is assisted by the Institute for Community Engagement, which is helping to propel our efforts forward. You can find out more on what we're doing by visiting the Joining Forces website. The Joining Forces team is seeking information on other programs and initiatives that fit its mission, so if your work is not listed, please reach out to them.

I also invite you to take part in the second Joining Forces Wellness Week, Nov. 11-15, where the AAMC will feature a free webinar series focused on military health issues. Visit the Joining Forces Wellness Week page for more information.

KU Medical Center has committed to this ongoing effort to address issues of special importance to military and their families, including employment, education and wellness. We're mobilizing our education, research, and clinical care missions so our nation's health care providers can best serve those who serve America.

Last modified: Nov 07, 2013