Dr. Thomas Russell knows a thing or two about what good medical care should look like. As a flight surgeon during the Vietnam War, and later on as a surgeon and head of the American College of Surgeons, he dedicated most of his life to ensuring that people received the very best in medicine.

So when the 74-year-old found out he was eligible for VA care at the San Francisco VAMC after his diagnosis of multiple myeloma, he jumped at the opportunity.  He thinks other Veterans should do the same.

“I’ve been very satisfied with my care,” he said during a VA News interview. “As a professional I could evaluated the care, and as a patient I was very satisfied… it worked for me, and I have no regrets.”


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Published on May. 20, 2014

Estimated reading time is 0.7 min.

Views to date: 72


  1. Randy Luby May 30, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    I also have had nothing but excellent care in the VA since 2002 and saw the primary Dr the first day i signed up. I am in the Southern Nevada Healthcare system and have tried the medicare Drs on the outside of VA for 6 mos and as fast as i could went back to the va as they care (Most centers) about the patients and really try and find out the problems and the underlying problems and work to fix them. i do have to wait 3-6 mos most times to see a specialist the first time but is to be expected with the amount of veterans now applying to the system. I have gotten referrals to outside Drs. as needed and will go nowhere else for my care except the VA. they are usually polite and also thank you for your service unless they are having a bad day as we all have. i do have multiple problems healthwise and i also like how they have all my information on computers where i do not have to tell each Dr what another one is doing and also it screens pretty good drug interactions and suggest alternatives as needed. so before you go knocking the VA and if you can check them out for yourself and not just the few that dont get the care they think they should be getting but the care that they need. Yes i feel for the veterans from the Phoenix hospt and others in the country that are backlogged but that just means that the VA should hire more Drs and nurses to solve the problems of over crowding . As a Proud VETRAN AND PROUND TO SERVE THE PEOPLE OF THE US, and keep up the good work

  2. Jim Preston May 21, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    I have been a patient of the VA since 1996. I am in better health then a lot of my Viet Nam brethern. I go every 6 months for blood work and an eval on my health. I discovered 20 yrs ago that I have “White Coat Syndrome” n when my BP is taken the old way it is normal but with the machine is 40 points higher. Once that was brought to their attention everything is fine. My only complaint is that the VA’s computer system does not talk to the DOD and each other districts. I found this out when I transferred to the NORCAL district from PALO ALTO. I have never had a problem in the Sonora Clinic or McCelland Clininic with appointments or anything.

  3. Victor Whitmore May 20, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    It is easy for a Doctor to get good treatment, after all, he has his retirement medical care and also, what Doctor in the right mind would give another Doctor bad advise. Have him go in under my name, My Doctor just subscribed a medicine that would help the pain when going to check the mail. Only problem is WEBMD said the ones that should not be taking this medicine is those with CHF, smoking, abdominal aneurysm, blood pressure, and more. I have these and more. But who am I, no Doctor. Military Medical Records show that I have a back problem, I was to be discharged under medical conditions, I was not suitable for military service, that I had knee problems, PTSD from a riot in 1972. Beat up by blacks that was to cover my back, I was on a 3 million gallon powder keg, I somehow ran into agent orange, and I have to wait months for anything, it took 3 months to see a shrink and even then it turned out to be some counselor. It is apparent I am some bottom of a list due to non-Military connections, Vietnam Vet, and I don’t have a Dr. in front of my name, in this case. Do they not think that Military Veterans talk to each other. If we were all that stupid, we would be Politicians or Generals!

  4. Paul Deutsch May 20, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    I disagree. The buck has to stop somewhere. The President appoint the General to run the VA. It doesn’t appear he has done anything except polish his retirement image. He should have turned the whole bureaucratic mess upside down and told everybody that he expects 8 hours work (not 2 hours) for 8 hours pay. The biggest problem with the VA is that it is so big and has become calcified by its own bureaucracy that it is incapable of doing anything useful. The General needs to go. The President should resign in shame and apologize for allowing the conditions to go on and on and on.

  5. Richard Glime May 20, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    I too have been nothing but satisfied with the care I receive at my VA Hospital or CBOC! I will say I am not pleased with getting only Naproxyn for all my arthritis pain, but when it comes to world class care, that’s all I’ve ever gotten. I was on a waiting list for simple arthroscopic knee surgery, well, the VA pumped in a little money and lo and behold, before I knew it, I was outsourced to an equally impressive health care system! For arthroscopic knee surgery!! Tomorrow, I go to the Cath lab, has my confidence waivered? No. Am I still confident in the care I’ll receive? You Bet!!

  6. Paul Tenenbaum May 20, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    It is very easy to be critical. It is even easier to make statements: get rid of the top people. Well nothing more untrue. Everything has a beginning. From personal experience I found out that care at the VA starts at the beginning. When I first applied in 1984 I saw a P.A. and I am not going to tell what she did or better yet what she did not do like get to a doctor. In fact it took 10 years before I made any progress. I was assigned to a claim adjuster. The medical code was wrong but it stayed with me for a long time. There is more. But for now I’ll say it was wrong to demand the resignation of Secretary Shinseki who not only was a terrific soldier ( two Purple Hearts and more)
    who worked himself up to be a General and finally in charge of the VA I could tell the influence at the VA since his takeover. Everyone is treated like a Human Being and that was an order. The area where is weakness is in the medical area. I recommend that a survey sheet be handed to every patient to fill out as to his/her opinion and send these forms to the Inspector General ( a neutral area). There would no need to wait a number of years and the Media would be shocked.
    You have my Email and I can be contacted for the rest of my story since my case is still not completed.

  7. Jane Horton-Leasman May 20, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    I am very dismayed by all of this negative talk about the VA Health Care System.

    Yes, sometimes it takes weeks to get an appointment with a specialist, however, when you look at the number of Specialst Physicain/Surgeons compared to the high numbers of patents in the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, the actual problem seems to be a need for more Specialists. My two surgeries in the last 2 1/2 years I have had excellent care.

    Also, our local Clinic, in Green Valley, Az., is 20 mi. S. of Tucson and we have great Doctors, Nurse and staff.

    I have found that if you have a complaint all you would need to do is contact your Patient Advocate at the Hospital, and you will be surprised at how quickly they go in to action if there is actual cause to do so.

    I have chosen, not to have 2 surgeries which are recommended from my last CAT Scan and MRI. One because I believe the back surgery on two vertebrae could leave me in worse pain than I now have and can be controlled by a light narcotic, Tramadol, taken maybe once or twice a day. At 79 I expect to be in better shape without the surgery and my Primary Care Doctor agrees. The second surgery is an aoritic aneurism which is a “4” and actually surgery is not critical until it reaches a “5”, so I am asking my PCP to refer me to an Vascular Surgeon to keep a check on it until I absolutely need the surgery.

    I have healed well, and so well after the last surgery I did not even take advantage of the referral to physical therapy. I know I will have a slight limp and have improved regularly with a insole in my right shoe. I absolutely love my Surgeon, Dr. O’Brien. Wonderful Doctor.

    Being very low income I am so appreciative of my VA services, and the fact I only pay for my medicines co-pay’s.

    God Bless all the people who work for us here in Tucson.

    Jane Horton-Leasman
    Green Valley, Az.

  8. Rick Pushies May 20, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Thank your Dr. Russell for your service to our nation. Glad to know you had a favorable experience with medical care within the VA system.

    I just find it hard to believe the treatment received by a former officer and MD, with an old physician friend on the medical staff, is equivalent to what a veteran of any enlisted rank receives without the M.D. at the end of their name and a doctor friend on staff, is the same? Wake up, this doctor’s opinion has virtually no value to me. I cannot comprehend this veteran being put on a secret waiting list that delayed or denied his medical care. My experience has not been bad in the VA but I have waited much longer than 2 weeks to be seen in our local VA clinic.

    This video is marketing propaganda sponsored by the VA and it makes the VA medical system probably look better than it does in reality. If the VA pays for the propaganda you can expect the propaganda will make the VA look good.

    I am a proud veteran and a proud member of The American Legion. I have much greater faith that The American Legion is more focused on my best interests than a video produced by the VA about the VA.

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