Fifth Annual Joining Forces Conference is an Ongoing Pledge
The fifth annual BUMC/VA Boston Healthcare System Joining Forces conference was held on Tuesday, Nov. 8 – Election Day – and just three days before Veteran’s Day. Part of a national initiative founded by first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden that focuses on wellness, education and employment opportunities for service members and Veterans, the event drew an audience of 200 students, BU/VA faculty and special guests from the military and veterans organizations, including the Wounded Warrior Project, Massachusetts Office of Veteran’s Services and Cohen Veteran Biosciences.
Event co-directors kicked off the conference with welcoming remarks. Associate Director, Center for Military and Post Deployment Health Monica Parker-James, who is also director of Clinical and Strategic Affiliations at BUSM opened the conference. She was followed by Director, Center for Military and Post Deployment Health Anna Hohler, MD, who also serves as associate professor of Neurology, and as BUSM Academic Affairs assistant dean. The third speaker welcoming the attendees was Director of Mental Health, VA Boston Healthcare System Gary Kaplan, MD, who is also professor of Psychiatry.
“This is great preparation for Veteran’s Day…to learn and plan strategically, to better serve our active duty and veteran military personnel,” said BUSM Dean and BUMC Provost Karen Antman, MD.
Keynote speakers included Jonathan Woodson, MD; Sandro Galea, MD, MPH, DrPh; and Tara Galovaski, PhD.
Woodson, a Brigadier General in the US Army Reserves and Faculty Director at the BU Institute for Health System Innovation, discussed the necessity of having appropriate healthcare for veterans. He reflected on the past 15 years of war, citing that there is a new type of “wounded warrior” who want to live an active life when they return home from duty. Military medical research and rehab technologies have changed the nature of post-injury life. Woodson, who also is a professor of Business, Surgery and Health Law, received the Soaring Eagle Award, which is presented to those who have made significant contributions to veterans and military members through innovation and advances in clinical care, education or public advocacy.
Galea, Robert A. Knox Professor and Dean of BU’s School of Public Health, provided a population health perspective and focused on trauma as a ubiquitous part of the human experience. He explained that “there is a deep underestimation of how central trauma is a driver of population health.” Galea said that 90 percent of the population will experience trauma at some time in their life and that mental health disorders are first on a list of medical conditions with the highest estimated spending, surprisingly ahead of cancer or heart disease.
Galovski, associate professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Women’s Health Sciences Division at the National Center for PTSD, explored her study of head injuries experienced by women and victims of domestic violence (DV). She surveyed nearly 500 adult participants (both male and female) at The Center for Trauma Recovery in St. Louis, a city representative of most urban centers. She pointed out that women and survivors of domestic violence have been understudied in comparison to brain injuries resulting from sports, car accidents, etc. As a clinician, she wants to detect the injuries found in DV victims at a rate higher than we are today. Her message to the attendees was that there are still more questions than answers, and declared, “I think we can do better.”
The conference wrapped up with opportunities to network at lunch and explore more topics at the poster session. Michael E. Charness, MD, professor of neurology and associate dean of veteran’s affairs, told the crowd “We look forward to this not as an annual event, but as a pledge to renew our efforts … to do everything we can to serve those who have served.”