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From coast to coast: celebrating HPE Week

From coast to coast: HPE Week

VAMCs across the nation celebrate Health Professions Education Week, March 11-15, 2024

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Last week, March 11-15, 2024, health professions trainees, Veterans, and clinical staff in VA medical centers across the country, took time to celebrate Health Professions Education (HPE) Week through special events, presentations, and award ceremonies.

HPE Week is an annual campaign to recognize the contributions of VA faculty, health professions trainees, clinical educators, academic partners, and Veterans who all work together to train future health care professionals for VA and the nation.

Each year, VA trains more than 120,000 health professions trainees in more than 60 disciplines, making VA the nation’s largest provider of health professions training.

“We thank everyone involved in our mission—especially the Veterans who put their continued trust in VA’s health care system,” said Chief Academic Affiliations Officer, Dr. Marjorie Bowman. “Without Veterans, our academic partners, and the outstanding clinical staff at the medical centers, we could not train so many high-quality health professions trainees each year.” 

From Puerto Rico to Las Vegas and countless cities in-between, VA medical centers emphasized the importance of VA’s education mission in different ways, always keeping the focus on education and training to better health care for Veterans.

VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, Ann Arbor, Michigan

    Pictured from left to right,
Associate Chief of Staff for Education Dr. Andrew Shuman (left) and Healthcare System Director Dr. Ginny Creasman (right) presented Dr. Elizabeth Scruggs-Wodkowski (center) with the 2024 Mary East Award for Excellence in Post-graduate Education.    

Monday, March 11, the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System awarded two trainees for demonstrating excellence in their educational pursuits within VA. Associate Chief of Staff for Education, Dr. Andrew Shuman, was proud to announce the winners of the  second annual Health Professions Trainees award program:

-Emily Sluiter, a fourth-year medical student and aspiring plastic surgeon, was presented with the 2024 Furstenberg Award for Excellence in Pre-graduate Education. Shuman said Sluiter received the award for connecting with patients and taking the initiative to help other students which went well beyond the expectations of any student rotating on a service.

-Dr. Elizabeth Scruggs-Wodkowski, a second-year fellow in Infectious Disease and graduate of the Internal Medicine-Pediatrics residency, was presented the 2024 Mary East Award for Excellence in Post-graduate Education. Scruggs-Wodkowski’s nomination “typified all the characteristics of a tremendous health professions trainee, clinician, educator, and researcher,” said Shuman.

VA Caribbean Healthcare System, San Juan, Puerto Rico

    Pictured from left to right, Designated Education Officer Dr. Maricarmen Cruz, MD; Stephanie Colón-Marrero, MD, holding award; Pulmonary and Critical Care Training Program Director William Rodriguez, MD, holding award; Nabori Benitez, Education Specialist    

In Puerto Rico, faculty and staff of the VA Caribbean Healthcare System held several events throughout the week to include grand rounds with guest speakers, recognition ceremonies, and presentations from poster awardees.

Associate Chief of Staff for Education Dr. Maricarmen Cruz-Jimenez said the theme of HPE Week was humanism in medicine. 

“We dedicate educational content to learn about healthcare disparities and the attitudes that help minimize barriers to care—bias, cultural humility, empathy, self-reflection, and clinical curiosity,” said Cruz-Jimenez.

Cruz-Jimenez is proud of VA Caribbean Healthcare System’s education journey, beginning in 1950 when VA partnered with academic affiliates in the community. Cruz-Jimenez said this week allows for not only a celebration, but to pause and recognize the role that VA has had in the sponsoring and development of clinical trainees.

“HPE Week also has become a re-affirmation about our sense of purpose in medicine,” said Cruz-Jimenez.

The top three winners of an abstract poster presentation were announced in a ceremony during the week. First place went to Dr. Alondra Velez Santiago, a first-year post-graduate resident. Second place went to Dr. Stephanie Colón-Marrero, a first-year post graduate resident. Third place went to Dr. Wilfredo M. Pedreira-García, and Dr. Jose Irrizarry-García, both third-year post-graduate residents.

VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System, Las Vegas, Nevada

    Pictured are 23 health professionals standing in a group in matching t-shirts in front of a large sign that reads Thank you, Health Professions Educators and Trainees!    

At the VA Southern Nevada Health Care System (VASNHS) in Las Vegas, leaders held numerous recognition events including an HPE appreciation luncheon to recognize those involved in health professions training. VASNHS trains approximately 750 health professions trainees every year in a variety of disciplines.

One of the clinical instructors, Dr. Janelle Espersen, feels grateful to be involved in sharing her experience and molding future physical therapists. “With every student, my goal is to not only inspire confident and intentional clinicians, but to make the next generation of physical therapists a step above the rest,” said Espersen.

Dr. Rondale Scruggs appreciates the trainees not only for their commitment to service, but for the skills and questions they bring to the training experience. “What health professions education means to me is making sure we are not only teaching the upcoming professionals, but learning from them as well to always better ourselves and the care we provide to Veterans,” said Scruggs.

    Pictured is a large group of health professionals standing in front of a blue ribbon. Dr. Ezgi Tiryaki is centered, holding scissors and just made the cut    

Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Monday, March 11, the Minneapolis VA Health Care System held a ribbon-cutting for the grand opening of the Interprofessional Education and Collaboration Center to coincide with HPE Week. The new state-of-the-art center will provide a dynamic learning environment where VA clinical caregivers and health care professionals can come together to learn, share knowledge, and collaborate on best practices.

"We are thrilled to open the doors of the IPECC and host health care professionals from all disciplines in a variety of learner-centric simulation labs, multipurpose classrooms, and computer lab settings," said Ezgi Tiryaki, MD, associate chief of staff for education. "Access to professional development in proximity to clinical care spaces is critical for providing Veteran-centric care.”

This summer, the IPECC will be the headquarters for training nearly 3,000 Minneapolis VA health care providers on a new electronic records system.

    Pictured are nurse practitioners Elizabeth Hardy (left), and Carrie Staggs (right), standing in front of the VA Marion Outpatient Clinic    

VA Marion Healthcare System, Marion, Illinois

Among other events, the VA Marion Healthcare System celebrated the week by recognizing their residents by highlighting two nurse practitioners (NPs) from the NP training program.  

Currently on their third cohort, the medical center recognized Carrie Staggs, NP, and Elizabeth Hardy, NP, who are set to graduate from the program in August. The residency provides a year-long training program with the goal of leaving the residents feeling well-prepared and confident to serve Veterans.

Hardy’s decision to train with Marion VA was influenced by her personal experiences when her father had a stroke when she was 19 years old. He was transferred to a VA hospital, and the care he received there left a lasting impression.

“That was the first time I had heard of VA. That experience with him, and the care he received, showed me that was my place,” said Hardy. She knew then that VA was where she wanted to learn and grow.

A big thank you!

Without contributions like these from everyone involved in health care training across all VA medical centers throughout the nation, VA could not continue to advance its academic mission and keep VA on the cutting edge of clinical care. The Office of Academic Affiliations (OAA) thanks everyone who supports VA’s education mission not just during HPE Week but throughout the year.

The mission of training future health professionals for VA and the nation, established more than 78 years ago, is one of VA’s four statutory missions and is overseen by OAA. More than 120,000 health professions trainees in over 60 clinical disciplines train at VA each year as they care for Veterans.

Cheryl Whitney is the Public Affairs Officer for the VHA Office of Academic Affiliations.



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