Partnership brings veteran care closer to home

UVM Department of Medicine, Veterans’ Administration make clinic access easier

Traveling 90 miles from Burlington to the Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center in White River Junction, VT, can be difficult, especially in winter. It’s even more challenging for the veteran who is living with chronic pain or has been diagnosed with a sleep disorder or irregular heartbeat. If that veteran doesn’t drive or have access to a car, it’s virtually impossible.

The October 2013 opening of Burlington’s Lakeside Clinic – and its ongoing partnership with the Department of Medicine at the Larner College of Medicine – expands care options for local veterans. Fourteen internal medicine residents – new doctors continuing their training at a hospital – routinely spend about 20 days of their outpatient medicine experience at the clinic.

The newest focus at the Lakeside Clinic is sleep medicine.

“It’s great for our residents to see how care, as we move forward, is going to look in the outpatient setting,” says Mark Pasanen, MD, a hospitalist, associate professor of Medicine and director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program.

Residents, fellows (board-qualified physicians pursuing subspecialty training) and department of Medicine faculty are providing specialized care that might otherwise have slipped through the cracks. Since a dermatology clinic was launched at Lakeside in October 2015, more than 50 skin cancers have been biopsied.

Veterans diagnosed with skin cancer can choose treatment in either White River Junction or at UVM Medical Center. The partnership has also allowed Dermatology to add a seventh resident at the VA, which has historically been affiliated with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Cardiology’s relationship with the VA goes back more than a decade. “From our perspective,” says David Schneider, MD, medical director of Cardiovascular Services for The University of Vermont Health Network and professor of Medicine, “there was a clinical need there that dovetailed nicely with an educational opportunity: the patients are getting the best care, but the fellow is really driving the interaction with the patient, which gives them that level of responsibility and provides a great learning environment.”

The newest focus at Lakeside is sleep medicine. Pulmonologist Susan Dunning, MD, assistant professor of Medicine and director of the UVM Medical Center Sleep Program, established a limited sleep clinic there in late December 2015 and hopes to expand it as needed.

As these clinical partnerships continue to thrive, the department of Medicine is now also exploring the possibility for research collaborations with the VA.