PCORI - Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

11/08/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/08/2019 15:13

Engaging and Serving the Veteran Community

Dan Van Buskirk returned from military service in the Marine Corps in Vietnam with an intense need to help others. He obtained his degree in sociology and anthropology, became a social worker, and co-founded two nonprofits dedicated to helping veterans recover from war. One day, he learned about an opportunity to improve cancer screening programs for veterans by offering his unique input as a veteran on an Engagement Award project Working with Veterans to Optimize Cancer Screening Programs.

Project leads Onur Asan, MS, PhD, and Jeffrey Whittle, MD, MPH, from the Medical College of Wisconsin began the project because veterans had an increased risk of lung cancer caused by high smoking rates and exposure to carcinogens in the line of duty. Having experienced the passing of his father-a World War II veteran in the Army's 101st Airborne-from lung cancer, Van Buskirk felt a need to engage in the project and address the issue.

Whittle came from a family of veterans as well, and knew from personal experience and years of primary care practice in the Department of Veterans Affairs the value of listening to self-identified needs from the community. He saw the power of engaging a spectrum of perspectives. 'If you only get the opinion from people who are used to giving the opinions, then you get a different set of viewpoints than you do if you are able to interact in a way that's genuine and repeated with people who are less talkative,' he said. Putting this belief into practice, he engaged with veterans working on the project, especially those who were initially more reserved in offering feedback.