LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Through her Joining Forces initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama is leading a national campaign aimed toward improving health care for military service members, veterans and their families.
That initiative will have the support of the one of the largest medical schools in the nation, which happens to reside in Manatee County.
The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, located in Lakewood Ranch, recently committed to support the plan and will implement the new White House initiative into one of its curricula.
LECOM is among 130 medical schools and research facilities affiliated with the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine that has agreed to adopt the initiative.
Dr. Mary Ann Clark is the course director and assistant clinical professor for the Behavioral Sciences Department at LECOM. She said studies on post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression, and psycho-social issues related to military culture and families, are already included in the department’s course study.
But by adopting the initiative, it will essentially provide students with a platform on how to handle such cases “immediately and in the field.”
Clark said LECOM uses a problem-based learning model for its students, which allows them to solve realistic problems and provides for more involvement with the subject matter.
“They will generate a diagnosis, they’ll get the history of patient and what they do is treat the patient from a cellular level to community level,” she said. “We can introduce that setting regarding PTSD and they would have a greater understanding for traumatic brain injury.”
LECOM spokesman Michael Polin said LECOM actively supports the military and helps spread awareness to its students. LECOM employs faculty advisors who have active-duty medical experience; 10 percent of LECOM graduates are in the military; the school has 135 military students using the Health Professions Scholarship Program; and it has a partnership with the Erie Veterans Affairs Hospital.
“We have exposure to this and have had for many years,” Clark said.
Clark said course studies will help students understand the basic science that underlines treatment for veterans and their families. She said by their third and fourth years in school, students will be able to perform actual clinical work under supervision, while military students will have direct access to military hospitals.
In the fall, Clark expects courses will include having a guest lecturer with expertise in treating PTSD.
“Michelle Obama has really brought the need of military families to light,” Clark said. “They have earned the care when they return, and we have to be ready to provide and treat them when necessary.”
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7049. Tweet: @_1NickWilliams