The tests that medical students take to measure progress as they work to become a physician now include questions about military medicine.
The National Board of Medical Examiners in Philadelphia develops the arduous exams that sometimes take seven or eight hours to complete.
Steve Haist, associate vice president for test development at the national board, said the new questions give medical students a chance to demonstrate their knowledge of traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic syndrome and other health concerns that are prevalent among veterans.
“Problems that not only affect recently returning servicemen and women, but are also found in general populations to some degree,” Haist said. “Traumatic brain injury also occurs, for instance, in football players–high school sports.”
“Most doctors and nurses have not received any training in dealing with soldiers and deployment and military service issues,” said Brain Baird, a former U.S. Representative for Washington State.
But that’s changing. Family medicine physician Robert Like co-directs the Warrior Centric Healthcare Interprofessional Education Program at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
“One of the problems is that we as clinicians never ask the question: Have you ever served?” said Like, who leads the medical school’s Center for Healthy Families and Cultural Diversity at the medical school.
Many former soldiers get health care outside of the Veterans Affairs system. Like says civilian doctors need to understand some of the health risks of medical service.
He said soldiers who wore heavy Kevlar armor sometimes develop musculoskeletal problems. Others worked long hours near “burn pits” that give off noxious fumes.
Rutgers is among 100 medical schools that are part of first lady Michelle Obama’s Joining Forces initiative.
The medical school in New Brunswick is training future physicians to care for servicemen and women who are struggling with depression or substance abuse. It’s also important to know that most veterans return home and do well after war, Like said.
Advocates who pushed for the additional questions say the change could nudge educators to revise medical school curriculums.
About three and half years ago, Brian Baird asked the licensing board to revise the test. Many veterans, he said, live in rural communities many miles from VA staffers who are experienced in military medicine.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed Brian Baird’s statement to another source.