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Medical Care for Military Women

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The Veteran’s Administration has been treating women veterans since 1988. Since that time, the number of female patients has tripled. This new demographic is changing the way the military cares for troops. Kim Riemland reports.

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(Locator: Nashville, Tenn.)

Women in today’s armed forces can fly helicopters and fighter jets; serve on combat ships; even become four-star generals, yet services for female veterans have not kept pace, says retired Army officer Mary Ross.

Mary Ross, U.S. Army (Retired): “The care that we received in the military, although it was very good care, was designed for men and not women.”

Women make up eight percent of veterans and one in five new recruits. So across the country the VA is opening clinics like this one in Nashville, Tennessee to cater to their unique needs. Corina Collins applauds the effort.

Corina Collins, U.S. Air Force (Retired): “From the moment you walk into this clinic the sense that it was developed specifically for us hits you as soon as you walk in the door.”

Dr. Gloria Richard-Davis, Women Veterans Healthcare Center at Meharry: “What you find is some of the traumatic experiences, the PTSD, the post-traumatic stress disorders, some of the military sexual trauma issues that surface as they return to their civilian lives.”

Army veteran Dr. Gloria Richard-Davis feels a special connection to her patients. At this clinic, doctors are all female and experienced in specialties from gynecology and substance abuse, to counseling for anxiety and depression. Whitney Simmons is a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

Whitney Simmons, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner: “Mental health care is certainly equally as important as primary care, as many of these women have come back from combat and they have scars that are not visible.”

This clinic is a partnership between the VA and Meharry Medical College, a United Methodist- supported institution.

Mary Ross, U.S. Army (Retired): “The VA can’t do it all by themselves. By having the partnership with the VA and Meharry, we’re getting the best of everything.”

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Because of the growing number of women enlisting, the VA expects the number of women seeking services to double over the next four years. The Meharry clinic will serve women veterans in the middle Tennessee area, including Clarksville and parts of Kentucky. For more information on the Women Veterans Healthcare Center at Meharry, call 615-873-6120.

Posted: November 9, 2009