Veteran Hears the Call to Whole Health
All who served our country have heard the “call,” and for some that call continues to draw us long after our time in uniform. Air Force Veteran Ray Obenza followed that call by volunteering at the VA Pittsburgh Health Care System, eventually accepting a full-time job in the Director’s office.
When the request for volunteers to become Whole Health Peer Facilitators came, he quickly raised his hand again. Now, he is now training to be a Certified Whole Health Coach so he can help other Veterans live their best lives using the same tools that helped him.
Ray’s path began when he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force in 1985. He spent four years on active duty as an Electronic Systems Engineer supporting testing of the Maverick missile and maintaining missile equipment. In 1989, he left active duty as a Captain and began a 23-year long career at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute before coming to VA.
Ray says the Whole Health Coach training allowed him to reflect on his personal wellness and what really matters to him in his life. Having achieved some very important personal goals related to his “workaholic” tendencies and his commitment to spending more time with his family, Ray believes that the Whole Health model can help all Veterans to achieve their goals.
When Ray’s daughter was younger, she would ask him to take her places, go on walks, or just generally spend time with him. But at the time, he was often so focused on his work that he lost some of these opportunities. He decided to set a personal goal of spending more time with his family, especially his young daughter. He credits his work with the Whole Health Personal Health Inventory tool which helped him find out what really matters and make and keep the commitment to spend more time with his family. Using the Whole Health tools, Ray is currently working on his health goals, including exercising more often and improving his sleep quality.
Ray’s message to fellow Veterans is simple. “Veterans who are informed about their medical conditions are more engaged with their medical providers as partners in their care and are much more successful at managing their conditions and maintaining their good health,” says Ray. “I find that the VA’s Whole Health model of care is the perfect way to address the physical, mental and emotional needs we all have and unlock the keys to achieve what we want most in life.”
VA’s Whole Health Model, also known as “Personalized, Proactive, Patient-driven Care,” is an approach to health care that empowers people and equips them to take charge of their health and well-being.
The Whole Health System includes conventional treatment, but also focuses on self -empowerment, self-healing and self-care. For some years now, VA has been shifting from a system designed around disease management to one based on a partnership across time focused on Whole Health.
Part of this model includes Complimentary and Integrative Health (CIH) practices. Since 2017, eight of these practices have been part of the medical benefits package for all Veterans. These include acupuncture, biofeedback, guided imagery, hypnosis, massage therapy, meditation, Tai-Chi and yoga.
Ray explored several of these practices like mindfulness, yoga and Tai-Chi. “Yoga is not as easy as I thought it would be, but it was eye opening, and I look forward to trying it again,” he says. “I hope to try them all because I realize there is value in self-care.”
For more information on the VA’s Whole Health model and how it can help you be your healthiest self, visit https://www.va.gov/wholehealth or visit your local VA medical facility and inquire about Whole Health services available.
Ronald Rutherford is a Whole Health Outreach Lead with the Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation