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Secretary McDonough visits Iron Mountain VAMC, Hancock CBOC

SECVA visits Iron mountain VAMC
VA Secretary Denis McDonough (left), greets and passes a challenge coin to John Moddie (right), Iron Mountain VA Medical Center Community Living Center resident, during a visit by the secretary and others December 15, 2023, to the Iron Mountain VAMC.

The Secretary of Veteran Affairs Denis McDonough, visited the Iron Mountain VA Medical Center Friday to speak with leadership, tour the facility, and meet with employees. In addition, the secretary held a press event with local media to discuss the PACT Act and other topics.

Accompanying the secretary on his visit was Representative Jack Bergman, Veteran Affairs Health Services Research and Development Psychologist Carolyn Turvey, Director of Michigan Department of Veteran Affairs Brian Love, and Veterans Integrated Services Network (VISN) 12 Network Director Daniel Zomchek.   

The secretary’s visit began with a round table meeting with the facility’s executive leadership team to discuss rural healthcare opportunities followed by interactions with frontline staff and the local labor union (AFGE Local 2280).   

“The visit provided many opportunities for the secretary to interact with staff and express his appreciation for a job well done.  Our meetings yielded positive feedback regarding potential future rural health initiatives,” said Medical Center Director John P. Shealey. Shealey went on to say, “We are truly honored that the secretary and Representative Bergman have expressed an interest in rural health care and the role our facility plays in meeting the needs of our Veterans.” 

Five people were individually recognized by the secretary for their outstanding commitment to the ICARE values and the mission of the medical center, to fulfill President Lincoln's promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military and for their families, caregivers and survivors. 

Sault Ste. Marie CBOC Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Colleen Burton, Suicide Prevention Coordinator Sharon Anastas, Chief Supply Chain Officer John Grayvold, Inpatient Unit LPN Bobbie Adell and Associate Group Practice Manager Joe Hord each received a challenge coin from McDonough and handshakes from him and Bergman. 

“Meeting the secretary was a great experience,” said Bobbie Adell.  “I was surprised and humbled by the recognition and would like to accept the award on behalf of all of my fellow nurses here at the VA. Each and every one of us work here to serve the Veterans. We do so with pride to thank America's heroes for the sacrifices they made for us.”

McDonough, Bergman and others visited the dentist lab as part of a tour of the facility and then went on to the kitchen.

“To have someone at that level model ICARE values – integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence – in both his words and his actions – was such an honor,” said Jaclyn Hintsala, Nutrition Communication Center Coordinator.  “It just made it so real.  My heart is full!” 

From the kitchen, the tour continued into the Community Living Center, where the secretary and Bergman talked with two residents, John Moddie and Ken Davis. 

John served during World War II and was captured during the Battle of the Bulge, becoming a POW for approximately four months. Ken served in Vietnam and was a Navy Corpsman.   

Once the tour concluded, McDonough and Bergman met with members of local media to discuss PACT Act and answer questions. 

“I’m here today to say to this great team, thank you and keep it up,” exclaimed McDonough.  “Everyone in this facility has the Veteran at the center of care.”

After answering all the media’s questions, McDonough and Bergman departed for Baraga, MI, where they met with members of the Baraga County Memorial Hospital and others to discuss rural health care. 

Once the meeting was finished the group headed to the Hancock, MI, Community Based Outpatient Clinic for further discussion regarding rural health care, and to present Primary Care Section Chief Allison Helman, MD, and Primary Care Section Chief Audrey Liston, MD with challenge coins and express gratitude for their dedication to the ICARE values.  

This was the first time since the Iron Mountain VA was built in 1950 that a secretary of the VA has visited the facility.


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