Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

Related Topics

Right Angle Club 2009
The 2009 proceedings of the Right Angle Club of Philadelphia, beginning with the farewell address of the outgoing president, John W. Nixon, and sadly concluding with memorials to two departed members, Fred Etherington and Harry Bishop.

Military Philadelphia

Taking Care of Our Veterans

{Alexandra Esposito and Stephen Bennett}
Alexandra Esposito and Stephen Bennett

The Civil War was barely over before Abraham Lincoln instituted programs designed to aid those wounded soldiers returning home from battle. Over the years such aid was expanded as both the needs and treatment expertise increased and in 1930 the Department of Veteran's Affairs was officially established. President Clinton elevated the department to cabinet level in 1996 and today there is virtually nothing that cannot be handled. Stephen Bennett and Alex Esposito described what is being done for our vets here in Philadelphia and throughout the country.

It's not too difficult to imagine how the horrors of war can affect our soldiers in both body and mind in ways that could not be imagined back in the 1860s when Lincoln first recognized our duty to those who put their lives on the line for us. Today, with such sophisticated ways of destroying life, the challenges call for specialized programs and the department seems to be doing a reasonable job at keeping up with destructive devices. Nothing bad ever seems to go away, we just find new types of injuries all the time to add to the list. For instance, we're seeing many cases of head injury caused by percussive types of weapons which cause severe brain damage while affecting only slightly the outer layers, like the skull and scalp. Special groups and operations have been formed within the department all along the way, the latest dealing with the special needs of the Iraq and Afghanistan troops.

The Philadelphia main office of the Veteran's Administration for Health is located at 39th and Woodland, right next to the University of Pennsylvania which it works closely with. Satellite offices such as those in Fort Dix, Coatesville and Gloucester, NJ, provide convenient locations for treatment of those not close to town. With a staff of over 2000 doctors, nurses and social workers and a budget of $330 million the area handles well-over 400,000 client visits each year. The Philadelphia unit is at the forefront of using the latest in electronic storage and retrieval systems to access records wherever they might be and has received awards for their expertise. The hospitalization facilities have improved steadily and the open bay wards are a thing of the past as are the archaic and makeshift diagnostic and operating facilities - everything is becoming as state-of-the-art as the civilian facilities.

The psychiatric clinic is especially busy as its services are recognized as being every bit as important nowadays as an actual trauma treatment. Substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorders, suicide prevention, and severe depression are being treated aggressively by teams of doctors and social workers using both medication and therapy. If only we could treat those people who take us to the brink of war and beyond, maybe we could put the need for such departments as this out of business. Maybe someday...

Originally published: Friday, March 13, 2009; most-recently modified: Thursday, June 06, 2019

Amen to that...
Posted by: Margaret   |   Feb 15, 2010 9:47 PM