Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston VA Women's Health Center - A Unique Place for Women

November 13, 2002

Houston VA Women's Health Center - A Unique Place for Women

by Nikki Verbeck, Administrative Assistant, External Affairs

Released: 2002/11/13

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Women's Health Center nurse Earlie Horace Thorn, RN (right) discusses breast self-examinations with veterans Barbara Davidson (left) and Marcia Spears. The Women's Health Center is responsible for scheduling and coordinating mammographies for women veterans. A Breast Clinic is open for patient consultations regarding abnormal breast findings. A physician assistant in the Women's Health Center facilitates well-women health screenings, including pap and breast exams.

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The Women's Health Center is dedicated to providing primary care, preventive health care, reproductive care, and a host of other health care services. The clinics available to women veterans include the Primecare Clinic, Gynecology Clinic, Breast Clinic, Compensation & Pension Clinic, Women's Preventive Medicine Clinic, Psychiatry Clinic, and the Nutrition Clinic. Above, Women's Health Center nurse Earlie Horace Thorn, RN meets with veteran Marilyn Gonzales.

Photos by Shawn D. James, HVAMC Media Section

HOUSTON, TX - When you think about the veterans who visit the Houston VA Medical Center (HVAMC), you usually don't think of females. However, the HVAMC Women's Health Center had 4,500 visits last year, and that number continues to increase.

Of the 4.3 million veterans who currently use the VA health care system, 4.5 percent are women. Of current active duty military, women account for approximately 15 percent of the force. This means that the number of women using the VA health care system will most certainly increase in the future. VA has accepted the challenge of providing equitable access to health care services to these veterans.

"While all veterans require convenient access to primary care, medical subspecialty care, mental health services, and long-term care, women also have some special needs that include access to gynecology and reproductive health services. These later needs are, in part, the result of the unique demographics of the women veterans population," said Robert H. Roswell, M.D., under secretary for health, Department of Veterans Affairs

The HVAMC places top priority in providing high quality health care services to the growing number of women veterans. While women veterans are entitled to the same health care benefits as male veterans, there are special programs and services available to meet their unique health care needs.

The Women's Health Center at the HVAMC, which opened its doors in 1996, is dedicated to providing primary care, preventive health care, reproductive care, and a host of other health care services. It also offers social work services, survivor groups for sexual trauma and breast cancer, CHAMPVA Program, pregnancy care program, mammography, and infertility services.

Shirley LaDay Smith, RN, MSN, HVAMC Women Veterans Program Coordinator, calls the Center "an outpatient clinic tailor-made for women."

The Center, located on the fifth floor of the HVAMC, offers a variety of specialty clinics. These clinics include the Primecare Clinic, Gynecology Clinic, Breast Clinic, Compensation & Pension Clinic, Women's Preventive Medicine Clinic, Psychiatry Clinic, and the Nutrition Clinic.

The Gynecology Clinic provides evaluation and management of acute gynecology problems and annual gynecological examinations.

Mammography services are contracted to an outside breast imaging facility. The Women's Health Center is responsible for scheduling and coordinating the mammographies. However, a Breast Clinic is open for patient consultations regarding abnormal breast findings. A physician assistant in the Women's Health Center facilitates well-women health screenings, including pap and breast exams.

"For breast cancer education, videos are available on breast health, breast cancer, and self-examination. There is also a breast team of 14 different services that collaborate in improving the care of patients with breast cancer," said Ms. Smith. "As for Primecare needs, Dr. Lydia Quinones, the Primecare physician for the Women's Health Center, sees patients Monday through Friday."

"We will continue to assure that women veterans have equal access to high-quality care. We are changing the culture in VA with clinical guidelines, performance measures, quality improvement, improved patient safety, and veteran-relevant research to prepare for the veterans of tomorrow, which, I can assure you, will include many more women veterans," said Dr. Roswell.

The Women's Health Center at the HVAMC caters to the special needs of their women veterans. Volunteers with the Women Veterans of America carry out bedside visits to women hospitalized in the HVAMC, and offer comfort items and gifts of cheer. The HVAMC Voluntary Section, in conjunction with the American Legion Auxiliary, provide a free mobile hair care service that includes shampoo, set, trim, and blow dry for hospitalized women veterans.

If you are interested in more information about the HVAMC Women's Health Center, please contact Ms. Smith, the HVAMC Women Veterans Program Coordinator, at (713) 794-7926.

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Point of Contact: VHAHOU Public Affairs

04/21/04 08:25