BURLINGTON — The University of Vermont Medical School has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to train more psychiatrists in the state by having them work with veterans.
Using funding from the VA and the affiliated UVM Medical Center, the medical school will increase the number of doctors who train in its four-year psychiatry residency program from 16 today to 20 by the year 2020.
That means the UVM College of Medicine will teach five doctors in each class, as opposed to four.
They will spend a substantial portion of their training on treating post-traumatic stress disorder at the VA clinic in Burlington and one month studying addiction at the VA Medical Center in White River Junction.
Dr. Judith Lewis, who runs the UVM psychiatry residency, said the increase is small enough that the Department of Psychiatry can easily handle the additional students. “It’s big in that it’s one extra person out there in the workforce every year,” she said.
Stakeholders from the Department of Veterans Affairs, University of Vermont, and Vermont’s congressional delegation all gathered Tuesday for a ceremonial ribbon cutting to celebrate the new partnership.
“We’re creating something that is new and important,” said Dr. Brett Rusch, the medical director for the White River Junction VA Medical Center. “The collaboration is going to result in more residents being trained every year in Vermont.”
Rusch said veterans need mental health care because they suffer from high rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and suicide. He said having residents in the Burlington clinic immediately helps the veterans getting care.
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Rusch also said mental health professionals find it rewarding to work at the VA. “Mental health within the VA has been sort of one of the great places for mental health professionals to work,” he said.
Joe Anglin, the spokesperson for the White River Junction VA Medical Center, highlighted the growing number of women in the armed forces returning from combat, who may need psychiatric care.
Anglin said the suicide rate in Vermont is rising, and so is the suicide rate among female veterans. He said even if the statistics are wrong, female veterans should know they can get help with mental health issues at the VA if they need it.
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