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HPT starts project to enhance medical curriculum

Health Professions Trainee Dr. Michael Brands presents a research poster at the Designated Education Officer Conference in Chicago, Aug. 23, 2023.

Health Professions Trainee Dr. Michael Brands presents a research poster at the Designated Education Officer Conference in Chicago, Aug. 23, 2023. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Whitney, Public Affairs Officer for the Office of Academic Affiliations.

By Cheryl Whitney
Friday, November 17, 2023

When Dr. Michael Brands began his training with VA earlier this year, he had no idea he would present his research to over 140 doctors at VHA’s Office of Academic Affiliations’ (OAA) Designated Education Officer (DEO) Conference in Chicago in August.

Brands, a native of Mandeville, Louisiana, and graduate of Louisiana State University’s Health Sciences Center School of Medicine in New Orleans, spends about one-third of his time training at the New Orleans VA Medical Center as a health professions trainee (HPT).

It was there that Brands decided to focus his research on military health and envisioned incorporating it into undergraduate medical education. Since Veterans are a unique patient population with special health considerations, Brands’ study aims to improve care of Veterans by introducing “military health history” to third year medical students at LSU School of Medicine.

“Dr. Brands was the mastermind behind this project,” said Dr. Irene Grundy, DEO at the New Orleans VA Medical Center. “Then the team collaborated to create a comprehensive military health history curriculum that was extremely impactful and successful.”

In fact, Brands’ research was well-received by DEOs who attended the conference.

“He presented the information to many leaders in the field and received such positive feedback that he left feeling energized and with ideas to expand the curriculum,” said Grundy.

Brands saw the opportunity as an honor and was fortunate to receive the opportunity.

“Considering the educational nature of this project, the opportunity to attend the conference and present my research to DEOs from across the country was an incredible experience,” said Brands. “The DEOs and OAA staff showed great enthusiasm for my work and provided plenty of great feedback and direction for future research.”

Grundy underscored the importance of having trainees like Brands within the VA health care system.

“Trainees bring so much to the table as they have a unique perspective, new ideas, and can identify opportunities for growth,” said Grundy. “By giving trainees opportunities like this, we hope to help recruit and retain phenomenal residents post-residency. Dr. Brands truly embodies the educational mission of OAA.”

Brands believes working with VA will have a positive impact on his future as a physician.

“Working at the New Orleans VA Medical Center provides me the opportunity to train in a state-of-the-art facility under the guidance of outstanding faculty all while treating a patient population for whom I care very deeply,” said Brands. “More importantly, Veterans are a group of people to whom we owe a debt of gratitude and helping them achieve their health care goals adds deeper meaning to my work.”          

The mission of training future health professionals for VA and the Nation, established over 75 years ago, is one of VA’s four statutory missions and is overseen by the Office of Academic Affiliations. Nearly 70% of all U.S. physicians complete training in VA and more than 118,000 health professions trainees in over 60 clinical disciplines train at VA each year as they care for Veterans. For more information about OAA, visit the website here.


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