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Veterans Health Administration

Retired Professor’s Dream Job: Volunteering at a VA Clinic

Two men looking at a document

Garland Wiggs, a volunteer at VA’s Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Wytheville, Va., shows Veteran Albert Kitts how easy it is to use My HeatheVet.

After 41 years as a college professor, Garland Wiggs finally decided to call it quits and leave the world of academia behind. But following his June 1, 2011 retirement he didn’t head for the rocking chair on the front porch. Instead he launched a whole new career.

“...I couldn’t think of anything more personally satisfying than helping my fellow Vets.”

“I decided I wanted to volunteer at the VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Wytheville (Va.), my hometown,” Wiggs explained. “I knew I’d need something worthwhile to do when I retired, and I couldn’t think of anything more personally satisfying than helping my fellow Vets.”

Wiggs’ specialty is teaching other Veterans how to use VA’s web-based, self-help program called ‘My HealtheVet’ — essentially an electronic gateway to Veteran health services. It provides access to trusted health information, online VA prescription refills, test and lab results, a Personal Health Journal, secure messaging to your Primary Care Team, as well as direct links to other federal and VA benefits and resources.

“It’s a powerful tool that helps Veterans better understand and manage their health,” Wiggs explained. “But some of the older Vets, like me, aren’t as ‘up to speed’ on computer stuff as the younger Vets are. So I just give them a few pointers to get them started. It’s easy, once you get started.”

Donna Lambert, My HealtheVet Coordinator at the Salem VA Medical Center, said Wiggs is a natural teacher.

“Gar, a Veteran himself, actively uses My HealtheVet and secure messaging,” she said, “so he’s been a real asset as a volunteer at the Wytheville clinic. The My HealtheVet program allows the patient to be a proactive part of their medical care team. Gar makes sure our Veterans understand how important it is to be an engaged member of that team.”

Ann Benois, Chief of Voluntary Service at the Salem VA Medical Center, described Wiggs as downright enthusiastic about what he does.

“Our clinic in Wytheville opened in June,” Benois explained, “at which time Gar enthusiastically began his assignment there to promote and assist Veterans with enrolling in the My HealtheVet program. As a fellow Veteran, Gar enjoys his assignment and really likes the opportunity to talk with Veterans in his community and also help the staff at our clinic.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have worked alongside Gar,” she added, “and many other members of our community who selected our facility as their choice to volunteer. Words can’t describe their dedication and commitment.”

Want to find out how you can volunteer? Go here: www.volunteer.va.gov