The North Florida/South Georgia VA’s medical library has teamed up with Whole Health Service to provide an innovative virtual book club for enrolled Veterans participating in whole health services.

“The purpose of the book club is to give Veterans resources to stay connected and continue reading,” said Rochelle Shipman, Whole Health coach.

The virtual book club started in June 2020 and is offered through VA Video Connect, biweekly.

Korean War Veteran Joseph Sanders explained that he joined the book club to stay motivated.

“I’ve learned a lot.”

“When I got the call that we were starting book club, I got excited,” Sanders said. “I’ve had reluctance in getting a book and starting to read on my own. I’ve learned a lot and have benefited by being held accountable to my group.”

Rochelle Shipman, Whole Health coach, videoconferences with Navy Veteran Donald Cooper.

Since the beginning of the book club, Veterans have read eight non-fiction books. The books are chosen based on the individual group’s interest.

Some of the books include “The American Spirit” by David McCullough, “The Power of Servant Leadership,” by Robert K. Greenleaf, and “Tough as they Come,” by Travis Mills.

For Navy Veteran Donald Cooper, the virtual book club gave him another way to interact with people outside of his normal circle of friends and family.

“Being a part of this group is great because it gives me perspective and helps with getting me through long stretches of time in isolation,” Cooper said.

Shipman believes the book club has been successful because of the diversity of the participants.

“We have members who come from all different backgrounds, young, old, male, female,” she said. “Everyone brings a unique outlook to the group which makes our discussions engaging and interesting.”

“My experiences are going to be different from someone who is 20 years older than me,” Cooper added. “I think that is awesome. Looking at things with different filters ultimately changes the way you think and view the world.”

Shipman explained that she ends each book club session on a high note and tries to give Veterans something to think about in preparation for the next time they meet.

“I don’t like it when everyone in the group agrees with each other during our discussions,” Shipman said. “Sometimes I like to play devil’s advocate and purposely disagree with them just to draw out different points of views.”

Veterans in the book club say the group is successful because of Shipman’s vested interest in making each session exciting.

“Rochelle goes out of her way to make things work for us,” Sanders said. “She’ll even call me to make sure that I stay on track. It’s a wonderful feeling to be cared about that much.”

About the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

The North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System is one of the nation’s leading VA health care systems, employing more than 5,800 medical professionals and support staff dedicated to providing high quality care to Veterans residing throughout North Florida and South Georgia.

The organization operates 14 facilities, including two medical centers located in Gainesville and Lake City, a domiciliary and clinics located throughout a 50-county service area.

By Melanie L. Thomas is a public affairs officer for the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

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Published on Oct. 2, 2021

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One Comment

  1. Geneann Claussen October 13, 2021 at 4:06 pm

    I’d like to join this club.

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