There are many reasons health professions trainees decide to become physicians. For many of the nearly 70% of U.S. physicians who complete their medical education at VA, there are even more reasons to stay with VA throughout their medical careers.

VA is the largest health care training system in the country, providing training, residencies and fellowships to more than 120,000 trainees in over 40 disciplines each year.

Over 70% of VA podiatrists and psychologists, 80% of VA optometrists and 60% of VA physicians trained in VA prior to employment. This trend is likely to continue based on results of the 2019-2020 Trainee Satisfaction Survey indicating 71% of VA trainees are willing to work for VA.

Trainees entering medical school reached two-decade high in 2020.

Training at VA to become a doctor

The number of individuals entering medical school in the U.S. reached a two-decade high in 2020 of 22,239 – a 1.7% increase compared to 2019.

Trainees may pursue a myriad of clinical training at VA during medical school, residency and throughout post-graduate programs.

VA’s Veteran population provides unique learning and teaching opportunities, such as a medically complex patient population, evidence-based treatments and comprehensive coordinated care.

Dr. Jennifer C. Thompson, associate chief of staff/education at the Orlando VA, facilitates the programs at her VA.

“Physician education is based primarily on an apprentice-like model,” she said. “This means the resident takes care of patients but always under supervision throughout the training period.

“Initially the supervision is very close. Next steps and decisions related to patient care are discussed in detail with the physician supervisor before any action is taken. As the trainee gains more knowledge and experience and demonstrates their competence, the level of supervision is reduced.

Dr. Jennifer C. Thompson, Associate Chief of Staff, Education, Orlando VA

“By the time of graduation, the trainee will have exhibited full competence to practice their specialty independently.”

Dr. Richard Henriquez and Dr. Vianna Broderick both trained at VA yet took very different paths.

“Exposure to Veterans helps doctor become more well-rounded.”

“When I was a medical student, I never rotated through VA, so I didn’t know what to expect,” said Henriquez, who trained as a resident at VA. “I found the patient population so diverse and so different. I think getting exposure to Veterans actually helps a doctor become more well-rounded.”

Henriquez also noted the importance to his VA training of working in VA’s Patient Aligned Care Team model that brings together nursing staff, mental health providers and other associated health professionals to provide coordinated patient care.

“I have so many avenues to try to get the answer for the patient and help the patient,” Henriquez said. “I don’t think many people even realize that happens here at VA, the interdisciplinary care. But I think that’s one of VA’s major advantages.”

Broderick did not have any VA rotations during residency.

“I wanted that VA experience”

“That was a gap,” Broderick said. “So, that influenced my decision of where I chose my fellowship. I applied to NYU for the geriatric medicine fellowship because I wanted to have that VA experience. Completing that fellowship really secured my goal of not only being a geriatrician but to be a VA geriatrician.”

Dr. Vianna Broderick, Geriatrics and Extended Care Service Physician

Through her advanced fellowship in patient safety, she helped develop a consultation sub-clinic in geriatrics, began teaching geriatrics and patient safety to other residents and fellows.

She worked with her Veterans Integrated Service Network’s Patient Safety Center of Inquiry to improve the quality and safety of care for Veterans.

Henriquez is administrative chief resident and an internal medicine physician at the Orlando VA. Broderick is with Geriatrics and Extended Care Service at James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa.

Becoming a physician at VA

“I may be biased, but I think there are multiple reasons to stay at VA for employment,” Thompson said. “The most fundamental reason is that it is immensely rewarding to be involved in the care and support of Veterans.

“VA also provides such a wide range of opportunities for physicians, including patient care, teaching and research.”

Learn more

VA conducts its training programs for more than 120,000 trainees annually in affiliation with over 1,800 educational institutions across the country, including 97% of the United States’ medical colleges.

These academic affiliations, some of which began 75 years ago, are coordinated by VA’s Office of Academic Affiliations.

  • Visit the Office of Academic Affiliations recently updated website.
  • Find out more about VA’s academic mission by watching this video.

By Clair Hill, PMP, is a writer for Enterprise Resource Performance, Inc.

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Published on Aug. 18, 2021

Estimated reading time is 3.9 min.

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One Comment

  1. Carl D. Mervyn August 21, 2021 at 3:18 pm

    It’s a shame men and women serve their country with honor and bravery and in turn be treated like lab rats. The soldiers of this country do not get treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. They are used so others can make thousands even millions off of their suffering and not have a say in who looks at their very private and personal medical and mental records.

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