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    Atlanta Veterans Affairs Center for Excellence

    An Evolution of Morehouse School of Medicine’s Partnership with the Atlanta VA 

    There are an estimated 8 million veterans who receive care from VA hospitals across the country; and this number continues to rise as veterans return from active service in conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan. There is a clear and distinct need for training and physicians to help care for our nation’s heroes. 

    “Veterans have a unique need,” said Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, dean and executive vice president. “And it is crucial that we train our students, residents and faculty to understand that need and how to provide the best care possible.”

    Last year, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) in partnership with the Atlanta VA Medical Center was chosen for the Centers of Excellence in Patient-Centered Specialty Care Education Initiative. As a recipient, Morehouse School of Medicine will receive $500,000 in funding every year for the next three years - totaling $1.5 million – which began in June of this year to complete their women’s health project. This Center for Excellence in Patient-Care is just the latest evolution in MSM’s relationship with the Atlanta VA.

    In September 2011, MSM began a psychiatry residency program at the Atlanta VA for third year students. The VA, as a teaching hospital provides students with unique exposure to psychiatric conditions such as post-traumatic stress, and now with a women’s center project – students will only gain further perspective on patient centered care for veterans.

    This joint training program is the first time a VA hospital is working with a medical school affiliate to provide obstetric care to women veterans. The Center will provide comprehensive care for patients in one location, and increase the number of available physicians: giving greater access and increased care for veterans of the Atlanta community. 

    According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, “VA Centers of Excellence in Patient-Centered Specialty Care Education will foster the transformation of clinical education and patient care by preparing graduates of health professional schools and programs to work in and lead patient-centered interdisciplinary and/or interprofessional teams providing specialty care in the setting of coordinated longitudinal primary care.” 

    These centers utilize ambulatory settings, such as VA’s Patient-Aligned Care Teams, inpatient settings, and/or transitions between inpatient and outpatient settings to develop and test innovative approaches for providing timely, patient-centered specialty care to Veterans consistent with the core competencies of patient-centered clinical practice. The project is about culture change and creating collaboration between specialty care and primary care. 

    Patient-focused care is the crux of our healthcare system and the mission of the Atlanta VA and MSM are a natural fit. MSM is committed to boosting Georgia’s physician supply and bridging the healthcare gap for our underserved communities by increasing student enrollment and expanding residency programs. 

    “We believe that our residents, students and faculty who practice, learn and train at the VA are giving veterans more of an opportunity, and a choice in their healthcare provider,” said Dr. Montgomery Rice.

    Medical students will get hands-on experience in the clinic and work with a practicing physician who will mentor them and teach them about not just delivering medicine, but insight into the practice of medicine for real patients. This relationship is a growing opportunity for MSM to work in tandem with the Atlanta VA to accomplish a shared vision of providing exceptional patient-centered care. It is a powerful partnership will result in more and better-trained doctors delivering the highest quality of care to our nation’s heroes.