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Penn is joining more than 100 other schools across the country to implement better treatment for veterans.

Last month, the Perelman School of Medicine became part of a large group of members of the Association of American Medical Colleges to study and improve healthcare for veterans.

The partnership is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Veterans Initiative.

Penn’s association with the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center has given students access to veteran care for many years, but according to Gail Morrison, Senior Vice Dean for Education at the Perelman School of Medicine, this new partnership will bring a greater focus to the unique circumstances veterans may face.

Especially now, as many recent veterans are returning home with physical injuries or psychological trauma, the Medical School “want[s] to make sure that those individuals will be cared for by our trainees appropriately, and to do that, we had to make sure that we had appropriate curriculum and training for students and trainees,” said Morrison, who is helping to coordinate the initiative.

Specialists — such as trauma surgeons, amputee specialists and neuroscientists who are able to work with those affected by battlefield explosions — will be key in moving forward with the initiative, Morrison added.

While the school’s curriculum will not change much, increased collaboration with the VA Medical Center will aim to provide medical students with additional training on how to work with different veterans.

“The number of veterans who are coming that served abroad is probably going to increase dramatically over the coming years,” Morrison said. “We’re gearing up.”

Morrison added that the Medical School is also interested in helping the family members of those who are returning to the United States.

“Having more experience and knowledge on how to deal with any patient population is always a good thing,” second-year Medical student Hayley Goldbach said. “As doctors in training, it is sometimes intimidating to deal with the range of patients and the baggage that any of our patients may come with, and veterans aren’t an exception to that.”

Goldbach added that she welcomes any extra training or background that might help her better treat someone “who has been involved in something that is clearly really life altering and that would have an effect on how they interact with the medical system and medical students as well.”

Though second-year Medical student Mark Attiah only recently learned of the initiative, he thinks it is a good way “to shed light on the fact that veterans are not treated as well as they should be when they come back home.”

Morrison thinks that Penn and its health system should be working to help veterans return to a normal life.

“All of us in the health system — and I’m sure in the University — feel that it is really what we need to do in order to thank the individuals who served and the sacrifice they made trying to keep the country safe,” she said.

This article has been updated from a prior version to reflect the correct title of Gail Morrison.

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