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The Military and Veterans' Health SIG Focus on Integration

Katherine S. Hall, PhD, MVH SIG Outlook Liaison

Dr. Thomas Nassif (left) receiving the first annual Dr. Patricia R. Rosenberger student award from MVH SIG Co-Chair Dr. David Goodrich (right)

The 2014 SBM Annual Meeting was an exciting one for the Military and Veterans' Health Special Interest Group (MVH SIG). The MVH SIG’s primary goal is to promote behavioral health within the unique systems of the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). At the Philadelphia meeting, the SIG sponsored several noteworthy programming events of interest to the Society’s general members. Notably, two symposia highlighted VA’s efforts to address obesity treatment among Veterans with mental health disorders. In addition, the SIG partnered with the SBM Education, Training, and Career Development Council to host a dynamic mid-day panel presentation on behavioral medicine training and early career opportunities in VAs. Based on popular demand and high attendance, handouts from this panel were posted on the SIG’s webpage.

The annual business meeting was designed to foster partnerships among the interdisciplinary SBM professionals who work in the VA/DoD healthcare systems. At this year’s business meeting, Emily Grieser, PhD, was elected to serve a two-year term as co-Chair representing the DoD and Katherine Hall, PhD was elected to serve a two-year term as the SIG’s Communications Officer. The SIG was also pleased to announce the presentation of a new award named in honor of SIG co-founder, Dr. “Patty” Rosenberger, for her instrumental role in forming a SIG to represent issues unique to serving military and Veteran populations. The first Annual Dr. Patricia R. Rosenberger student award was presented to Dr. Thomas Nassif of American University for his research evaluating a mindfulness meditation to help improve pain management for Veterans with traumatic brain injury. This award will be presented annually to students or post-doctorate trainees for exceptional research and/or service to the field of behavioral medicine that reflects Patty’s commitment to SBM and veterans’ health.

The business meeting generated much discussion on how best to meet the goals of the MVH SIG. Among meeting attendees, there was a strong consensus to develop programming for the 2015 Annual Meeting that features VA and Uniform Services’ contributions to innovative and integrated behavioral medicine care. During Summer 2014, the SIG leadership will put out a call to its membership for proposals that highlight VA’s Health Promotion Disease Prevention (HPDP) and Health Behavior Coordinator positions as well as their role within VA’s version of the medical home model, Patient-Aligned Care Teams (PACT). The SIG also aims to promote programming that underscores the broad range of behavioral medicine issues addressed by VA’s Primary Care Mental Health Integration program (PC-MHI) in which mental health providers are co-located in primary care clinics. These topics also present the opportunity to develop a preconference workshop featuring VA expertise on the science of implementation and dissemination.

Discussion from the business meeting also noted that San Antonio is home to the U.S. Air Force Clinical Health Psychology Fellowship program. DoD and Uniform Services members expressed interest in developing programming that highlights the training opportunities in this DoD program as well as professional and training opportunities available at the San Antonio VA. SIG officers stressed that they strive to provide programming that is relevant to SIG and general SBM members, and encouraged members to offer suggestions on programming topics of interest that can be sponsored solely by the MVH SIG or in collaboration with other SIGs or Councils by using the SIG listserv to initiate intra-SIG discussions.

Leveraging the benefits of SBM membership, the MVH SIG will aim to foster professional networking and career development. To accomplish this aim, the SIG will explore opportunities to support early career researchers and professionals by connecting them with mentors and training opportunities. In light of the rapid transformation of DoD/VA healthcare services, efforts to elevate the importance of behavioral medicine in Requests for Applications (RFAs) for DoD/VA-sponsored research through ideas and collaborations developed through the SIG are needed. MVH SIG officers are aware of the difficult environment to obtain travel funding for conferences like SBM among its membership, and are working with VA and DoD leaders to identify ‘champions’ to help address this issue. Finally, the MVH SIG plans to make a social get-together an essential annual meeting event to build long-term relationships among SIG members.

The MVH SIG invites all SBM members to join our commitment to promoting research, prevention, policy development, and education with the goal of translating evidence-based behavioral medicine interventions into clinical care for all Veterans, military members, and their families. We invite any interested members to join the MVH SIG by contacting any of the board members: David Goodrich (David.Goodrich2@va.gov), Emily Grieser, or Katherine Hall (katherine.hall@duke.edu).