The VA knows that inclusion equals innovation. By ensuring that every Veteran receives care that matters to them and their whole health, VA providers and staff get to know each Veteran personally to provide better care tailored to the patient’s health and wellness goals.
All Veterans are different, and health care is not one-size-fits-all. However, diversity in VA personnel helps bridge the gap in health care disparities, an attitude adopted at the very top of their organization.
And the more diverse the VA workforce, the more tremendous success they’ll shareAnd the more diverse the VA workforce, the more tremendous success they’ll share
“To ensure a welcoming environment for Veterans, we must foster fair and inclusive VA workplaces where the experiences and perspectives of our diverse employees are valued,” says VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “The success of our mission depends on everyone being able to contribute their expertise, experience, talents, ideas, and perspectives.”
Investing in Inclusion
The Office of Academic Affiliations (OAA) plays a significant role in developing VA’s diverse workforce.
Healthcare professionals just starting in their careers can take advantage of health professions training and scholarship programs designed to increase job opportunities at VA for racial and ethnic minorities, improving healthcare experiences and outcomes for these groups.
OAA manages affiliations with more than 1,800 unique colleges and universities, including nearly 200 minority-serving institutions (MSIs). Approximately 20,000 health professions trainees from MSIs come to VA each year.
Additionally, the Veterans Healing Veterans Medical Access & Scholarship Program provides full scholarships to 12 Veteran medical students at Teague-Cranston Act and Historically Black Colleges and Universities in exchange for a four-year service obligation at VA.
Inclusion Leads to Innovation
The VA’s academic affiliations put them in a unique position to mentor and fund researchers from disadvantaged backgrounds who are motivated to make a difference in their communities, broadening career opportunities for those seeking to join the VA’s team.
Additionally, the VA recognizes that scientists and trainees from diverse backgrounds and life experiences bring different perspectives, creativity, and individual enterprise to address complex health-related problems. So the VA has developed funding opportunities in mentored research for junior VA investigators from underrepresented backgrounds. These research supplements pair early-career investigators with established VA researchers.
The supplements, supported by the VA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD), have led to research into virtual reality technology to help Veterans with mild cognitive impairment and repurposing existing drugs to treat substance use disorder, among others.
The Road Ahead
Supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion among the VA staff is an ongoing effort and a challenge that will continue in the future. As the VA celebrates its successes, they look ahead to further efforts that support and recruit a diverse workforce.
By integrating best practices into all the VA does to expand access to world-class healthcare services and to improve policies and procedures to reflect the diversity of those they serve, the VA continues to strengthen its efforts toward a safe and respectful workplace and healthcare environment.
Serving the most diverse group of Veterans in history, the VA reaffirms its commitment to hiring staff that reflects that diversity, ensuring that VA employees feel supported and providing equitable healthcare access for all.