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University of Utah unites with more than 100 med schools to help vets

Published January 11, 2012 5:33 pm

Medicine • First lady behind initiative.
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The University of Utah's medical school is among more than 100 nationwide uniting to improve health care for America's veterans under an initiative announced Wednesday by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Obama appeared Wednesday at Virginia Commonwealth University and said 105 U.S. medical schools and 25 schools of osteopathic medicine are bolstering their efforts to train students in treating brain injuries, post traumatic stress disorder and other mental-health issues affecting returning service members.

She thanked troops from Fort Lee in the audience, and told medical students that the military members are counting on them.

"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," she said.

The Defense Department estimates that nearly 213,000 military personnel have suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2000.

An earlier report by the Rand Corp. think tank estimated that 300,000 veterans of both conflicts suffered PTSD or major depression. Fewer than half had sought treatment for PTSD over the preceding year and nearly 60 percent of those reporting a probable brain injury weren't evaluated by a physician for one.

Precisely how the U. will contribute isn't yet clear, said Wayne M. Samuelson, the medical school's vice dean. "We were asked to sign on only a few days ago."

The Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City is affiliated with the medical school, but that's not the case in all parts of the country, he said. "This initiative really gets over some of those administrative hurdles."

Samuelson anticipates having to modify the school's curriculum. PTSD and brain injury, for example, are examined through case studies, but they're not necessarily military case studies.

"This really is an opportunity for us to expand the way we teach and bring multiple disciplines to bear on this," not just psychology and neurology, but also the college of pharmacy and nursing, said Samuelson.

Julie Pace and Zinie Chen Sampson with the Associated Press and Tribune reporter Kirsten Stewart contributed to this report.

Links to more

More information about Joining Forces is available at http://www.JoiningForces.gov. —

Links to more

More information about Joining Forces is available at: http://www.JoiningForces.gov.