The Veterans Health Administration has numerous programs for students aspiring to become medical professionals, ranging from medical doctorate scholarships to residency programs for nurses, and even fellowships for psychologists. A student doesn’t have to be a Veteran to take advantage of these programs and opportunities.
Dr. Sharona Feld, Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System Psychologist, is one such student who has taken advantage of the psychologist internship program. For psychologists to become fully licensed, they must spend a year under supervision doing clinical hours, much like a doctor’s fellowship.
She felt the call to serve Veterans while researching her thesis, which was about a comparison between Israeli Veterans and American Veterans and the rates of PTSD and how they cope. Being a native of Israel, and moving here when she was 13, the topic felt fitting.
“I wanted to research something with Israel, and I thought of a comparison story,” said Feld. “It was actually one of my teachers that suggested I research Veterans, because there’s such a contrast between the two countries, and I thought it was just a great idea. I came to the VA and I worked here as a student for a year and I loved it. I love Veterans, just as a population, they’re just kind they’re so underserved, and misunderstood. So many of them are so alone with their struggles. The amount of empathy that I have for Veterans is unmatched. I think it’s also because I come from a long line of people who were in the military. My dad served in the Israeli Defense Forces, and all my mom’s family served.”
From here, she tried to apply for an internship for psychology with the Veterans Affairs but was unfortunately denied. She finished an internship somewhere else, and after that applied for the fellowship program with the VA. She was accepted, and now works here with Veterans.
“I didn’t get accepted into the internship program,” said Feld. “But it was a blessing. I worked in a mental health clinic somewhere else, but it really solidified my feelings. I wanted to come back to work for the VA.”
For her the best parts of her job are connecting with Veterans, and watching them grow and improve.
“My favorite moment is where you sit with a Vet and they come in and they have, you know, anxiety, or depression, and we start to work on it, and then you help them through it,” said Feld. “I most recently had one of my Vets, who was doing PTSD work, even though she’s spoken about her trauma numerous times, but there were somethings she kept hidden and she felt like she couldn’t get those things out. And once we were able to get through those, her scores just dropped: blood pressure, heart rate. She felt like a new person. Nightmares are gone, she’s able to maintain relationships she’s getting along with her friends. She’s going to the gym, she got a new job, her life is just flourishing. I feel honored to help people like this. I can’t take the credit, because most of it was her. She’s the one that sat down with this every night trying to work through all this. I just gave her the tools. It’s just such an honor to walk through with all of this and that she trusted me. And felt safe with me and I think that’s where I feel so honored.”
For more information about scholarship, residency, and other student opportunities, click the following link: https://www.va.gov/phoenix-health-care/work-with-us/internships-and-fel…