, SC — Columbia, SC — The Columbia VA Health Care System’s (CVAHCS) team of medical professionals in their Women’s Health Program, aim to ensure every female Veteran who receives care at CVAHCS feels empowered, comfortable, and treated with dignity.
“I’ve taken care of women for more than 30 years. I’m a dad of two daughters and have been married to my wife for about 35 years,” said CVAHCS Women’s Health Medical Director, Kahlil Demonbreun. “Somewhere along the line I decided that I wanted to take care of women. I didn’t know exactly what that meant [then] but doing what I do now is exactly what I had a vision of. I’m excited to be here, leading the path and taking on the challenge of providing great health care to our female Veterans.”
Historically, VA clinics and medical centers have primarily served males, but the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is serving more and more female Veterans per year. The population of women Veterans is expected to increase at an average rate of 18,000 women per year through 2027.
“We are growing in terms of our female Veteran enrollment, exponentially,” said Demonbreun. “Since I first arrived here seven years ago, [our female enrollment] has grown by several thousand. With that growth we’ve brought on providers with different skillsets, new technologies for how we provide service, and are creating an environment that is more conducive for our female Veterans.”
Today, the CVAHCS provides health care services to nearly 12,000 women across the Midlands. As that number grows, the CVAHCS aims to ensure its female Veterans are receiving top-notch care across the board.
To help familiarize staff with caring for female Veterans, Rose Hutson, CVAHCS’ Women Veteran Program Manager, along with Demonbreun created the I Care 4 Her educational initiative.
“I saw that there was a lack of information and experience in caring for women,” said Hutson. “[I Care 4 Her] provides our staff an opportunity to learn more about women, physiologically. We take it system by system to help our providers be more educated about women, and it gives providers and nurses a chance to ask questions about specific scenarios.”
Hutson says that since the start of the I Care 4 Her initiative the comfort level of providers with female patients have increased and given primary care providers the opportunity to learn more about things such as contraceptives, mammography, maternity programs, and more.
To Hutson health care is more than just caring for the physical body. Hutson helps to foster an environment that embodies a whole health approach aimed at helping women both physically and mentally/psychologically.
Hutson oversees a quarterly virtual women’s health forum, as well as CVAHCS’ Women’s Empowerment Group, which meets virtually on the first and third Wednesday of every month. Both programs are aimed at ensuring the care female Veterans receive at the CVAHCS is ever progressing.
“The health forum is a form of outreach for the women Veterans in our community,” said Hutson. “In our catchment area we are currently providing service to less than half of the eligible female Veterans. We want women to know that they can utilize the VA as a resource for their health care, and not just for their physical health, but also their mental health.”
The bi-monthly Women’s Empowerment Group has evolved under the tutelage of Hutson, to bring in different subject matter experts from both the VHA the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and covers a wide-range of topics ranging from cardiovascular disease (the number one killer of women nationwide) to military sexual trauma.
“We also offer an eight-week Whole Health Course for Women,” said Hutson. “[Within] Whole Health we have Tai Chi, yoga, mindfulness, nutrition, and all these other things that these women Veterans may or may not know about but can get introduced to these things to implement into their lives.”
To join the Women’s Empowerment Group or get put on the waiting list for the Whole Health Course for Women, speak to your primary care provider or send the CVAHCS a message via Facebook.
At the VA it is the job of every employee to provide the best service possible to our nation’s Veterans, and at the CVAHCS it is a priority to ensure that female Veterans receive the same up-to-date, quality care that their male counterparts expect in their health care. At the CVAHCS Female Veterans are not invisible.