As Research Director for IAVA, one of my personal missions is to spend time with the next generation of scientists and policy makers, trying to get them interested in the concept of data-driven policy and advocacy. Last week, I had the honor of serving as judge for the Third Annual National Academy of Medicine and Institute of Medicine’s DC Public Health Case Challenge. It’s modeled after Emory University’s Global Health Case Competition and intended to engage Washington D.C.- area undergraduate and graduate students on real-world public health issues and encouraging an interdisciplinary approach to developing solutions. This year, the students were asked to address the concept: Supporting Mental Health in Older Veterans.
Teams from seven universities were given two weeks to develop a grant proposal that would demonstrate an understanding of the challenges that older veterans have in seeking mental health care and propose a viable, fundable and scalable solution.
I and a panel of six judges had our work cut out for us as each student team presented some truly thoughtful solutions.
Throughout the day, what really struck me was that for many of these students, this was their first introduction to the challenges that individuals face seeking mental health care and the challenges that veterans (and older veterans specifically) face. For them it was an introduction to the veteran community. It’s important to have something like this to hopefully inspire these future professional in public policy, health, law, and other professions to think about this often underrepresented population.
IAVA thanks the Institute of Medicine for challenging these students to focus this year on the veteran population. Challenges like these are critical to engage the next generation of professionals. These are, after all, the very same people who will be providing for the needs of the newest population of veterans over the next decades.
Generations of war have taught us that the long after the wars are over, those who served will need the support of the nation to ensure they receive the care and benefits that they have earned in their service. These rising professionals will be the ones leading the charge to ensure that these are in place and are poised to support our veterans in all that they need. I hope that this case challenge is just the start and will inspire them to continue to learn about and work with the veteran population throughout their careers.
Congratulations to all of the teams who competed. You are all amazing leaders in your disciplines and we look forward to seeing more from you in the coming years!