VA’s David M. Worthen Award, the highest award for excellence in health professions education, was recently awarded to three VA clinician educators who developed programs to bring diverse groups of students to learn at VA. Their programs improve inpatient doctors’ teaching skills and train advanced fellows to improve quality and patient safety.

The award is given annually in three categories. The Rising Star Award recognizes an early career champion of health professions education. The Innovator Award recognizes an individual who created and is sustaining or expanding a significant educational innovation. The Career Achievement Award recognizes an outstanding health professions education champion whose lifetime contributions have profoundly advanced and impacted the education mission of VA.

Worthen award winner Laura Zambrano-Vazquez

Laura Zambrano-Vazquez

Rising Star

The Rising Star Award was presented to Laura Zambrano-Vazquez, program manager, director of Training, Education & Dissemination Core at VA’s Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans in Waco, Texas.

Zambrano-Vazquez is helping expand diversity in VA health professions trainees and increase VA providers’ understanding of Veterans with diverse backgrounds. She established a new academic affiliation with Prairie View A&M University, a historically black college, bringing undergraduate students interested in health care careers to VA for a two-week intensive followed by ongoing mentoring by VA clinicians.

Innovator

Dr. Laura Caputo, physician hospitalist at Durham VA Medical Center and recipient of the 2022 Innovator Award, led Project MODEL (Maximizing Ongoing Development and Educational Leadership) for VA Hospitalists, a grassroots faculty development project to share best practices in clinical education on inpatient VA units.

Dr. Laura Caputo

“I chose to work at the Durham VA specifically because it gave me the opportunity to teach right out of residency,” said Caputo. She knew she needed to prepare for that role, so she started Project MODEL to help inpatient attending physicians improve their teaching skills.

Career achievement

Dr. Bradley “Vince” Watts, 2022 Career Achievement Award recipient, led the development of numerous VA fellowship programs to improve quality and patient safety, including the Health Systems Engineering Advanced Fellowship.

The fellowship brings highly technical advanced fellows with backgrounds in engineering, computer science and big data science to VA, to learn how health care works and to use their skill sets to improve quality and safety of care across the enterprise.

Dr. Bradley "Vince" Watts

Dr. Bradley “Vince” Watts

“These are the people that run companies like Ford or Bank of America, but they generally don’t run hospitals or health care systems,” said Watts.

Improving the quality of Veterans’ health care

“These doctors are educators who are creating new and better ways to teach the next generation of health care providers utilizing the latest technologies to improve the quality and safety of care for patients in VA and across the country,” said Dr. Marjorie A. Bowman, chief Academic Affiliations officer. “More than 113,000 trainees in over 60 clinical disciplines complete training in VA facilities each year, learning from world-class faculty and staff like these recipients of the 2022 David M. Worthen Award.”

VA’s Office of Academic Affiliations (OAA) is responsible for directing the nation’s largest education and training program for health professionals in the U.S. OAA works in partnership with 99% of the country’s medical schools and more than 1,400 colleges and universities, including schools in the associated health professions.

Nearly 70% of physicians in the U.S. and thousands of trainees learning their professions as pharmacists, social workers, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and in other specialties receive training at VA each year.

Learn more about VA’s mission of training health care professionals at VA Office of Academic Affiliations.

By Tonya C. Lobbestael is a public affairs officer for the VA Office of Academic Affiliations

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Published on Jul. 8, 2022

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