AAA Annual Meeting Program

AAA Annual Meeting Program Details

Session Information:
This session may be of particular interest to:  Practicing and Applied Anthropologists     Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges     Students  Students
Program Number: 2-0830
Type: Session
Session Sponsor: National Association for the Practice of Anthropology
Society for Medical Anthropology
Session Date/Time: Thu., 1:45 PM-5:30 PM
2:00 PM: SARAH ONO (Iowa City VA, CRIISP & RHRC) -- "And It Needed to Be Done Yesterday": Urgency, Ethnography, and Rapid Needs Assessment in a Rural Setting  
2:15 PM: HEATHER REISINGER -- Reaching out to OEF/OIF Servicemembers and Their Families: An Ethnographic Study of a National Policy Mandate  
2:45 PM: KAREN BESTERMAN-DAHAN -- Challenges Faced by Student Veterans Transitioning From Military to College Life  
3:00 PM: ERIN FINLEY (University of Texas Health Science Center-San Antonio) -- Service and Sacrifice: Morality and Illness Among Returning Veterans With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder  
3:15 PM: DISCUSSANT: ALISON HAMILTON (University of California-Los Angeles, Integrated Substance Abuse Programs)  
4:00 PM: GEMMAE FIX (VA Center for Health Quality, Outcomes, and Economic Research/Boston University) -- Seeing From the Veteran's Perspective: Using Ethnographic Methods to Understand Complex, Chronic Disease.  
4:15 PM: BRIDGET HAHM (Veterans Health Administration) -- Comparing Qualitative Methods for Predicting Injurious Falls in Nursing Homes  
4:30 PM: JASON LIND (Department of Veterans Affairs) -- The Role of Anthropology in Mediating the Implementation of Smart Technologies to Rehabilitate Polytrauma Veterans at a VA Transitional Living Center  
4:45 PM: SAMANTHA SOLIMEO (Iowa City VA Medical Center) -- The Lone Anthropologist vs. Big Brother: How I Became a Medical Anthropologist for the VHA  
5:00 PM: DISCUSSANT: ELISA SOBO (San Diego State University)  
5:30 PM: End of Session
Abstract: The VHA is the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States, the largest safety net system, and provides the greatest number of training slots for health care practitioners. It also sponsors research and training centers across the country, a unique research and quality improvement collaborative, and several national conferences. In this research environment, a growing call for ‘qualitative research’ has emerged, which is ripe for anthropological engagement. As the emphasis on evidence-based medicine continues to grow in the health care arena, VHA researchers and practitioners alike are seeking a greater understanding of contextual factors, stakeholders’ perspectives, and ways to build an integrated picture of complex practice settings. This session demonstrates the growing circulation of anthropology in the VHA. This collection of papers discusses ways anthropology can contribute to the improvement of VHA health care and identifies various sites for anthropologists to inform VHA policy and research agendas.

Medical anthropologists from Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers across the United States present examples of how their work as ethnographers who have contributed to research and implementation projects. As a starting point, the first paper offers an introduction and brief overview of the structure of the VA and its role as a provider of health care to 5.5 million veterans. Against this backdrop, individual papers report on multiple sites across the US, including research with recently returned Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, rural health policy, and implementation of best practices. The final paper reports on the process of acculturation to qualitative VHA research and raises methodological and ethical questions for applied anthropologists in this setting. Panelists represent a cross-section of VHA anthropologists and their work illustrates the role of ethnographers and qualitative research in VA medical center research and implementation projects. Collectively the panelists reflect on how working at the VA posses intellectual challenges and rewards, such as grappling with how ethnography produces a rich understanding of local context, while asking in turn how this understanding can contribute to improvements in a national healthcare system. Finally, the discussants will draw on their experiences as medical anthropologists in VA and health services research to connect the multiple themes in the papers and push panelists and audience members to think critically about engaging the VA in an anthropological perspective and the ever growing circulation of anthropology outside its disciplinary boundaries.


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