UCLA School of Public Health Field Studies Program

Community Health Sciences

Field Placement: Veterans Health Administration
Los Angeles, CA
Colleen Ross, RD
Student Name: Vivian Lau
Year: 2005

During the summer of 2005, I spent my field study at the VA medical healthcare system under the supervision of Colleen Ross (director of the internship program). The Veterans Health Administration manages nationwide VA medical centers and clinics, which provide medical and rehabilitation services to veterans, medical research, graduate medical education, and emergency management. In the past, VA focused on providing inpatient care in VA hospitals, however, in recent years, VA has expanded its outpatient services, following a national trend toward outpatient medical care. Although VHA provides care primarily to veterans with service-connected disabilities or low income, the department also serves veterans more broadly. Many veterans have chronic illnesses, non-service connected disabilities, or mental-health and substance-abuse problems that may not be covered by private insurance. Hence, veterans may choose to receive care from the VA, perhaps due to its convenience of low out-of-pocket costs. The VA is also funded through the federal government whereby a certain amount of funds are allocated to the Veterans Affairs Health Department. Every veteran that the medical center serves will be reimbursed specifically for what they are treated, therefore careful record keeping of who they serve is crucial.

My internship project is structured so that interns would develop competent entry-level dietetic professional skills for evidence-based practice in clinical, community, or foodservice nutrition. Certain task descriptions include ambulatory patient counseling, conducting group classes that are nutrition-related, and equipping the veteran population to become self-motivated in improving their health conditions. Participating at this internship in conjunction with the community health science coursework at UCLA is particularly helpful since I feel better equipped in my knowledge to apply motivation theories, health promotion strategies, and program planning approaches into a practical setting.

At the GLA VA medical center I especially enjoyed the wide exposure to a variety of faculty members within the medical centers, outpatient clinics, and WIC facilities. The dietitians at the GLAVA take ownership and pride in teaching and use one-on-one teaching in a majority of the rotations to facilitate the most effective learning situation for me. The staff is large and the time spent with each dietitian gives me a variety of professional styles from which I can learn from and am able to develop my own unique style of professional practice. There was also a continual constructive evaluation of my performance which provides for an opportunity for me to strive for higher levels of professional competence.

As a dietetic intern, I thoroughly enjoyed the community rotation whereby I was given ample opportunities to learn about my professional strengths and weaknesses. I learned about what I enjoy most and strive towards the betterment of my professional by being reminded of what I am most passionate about. I desire to continue to grow in my weaknesses and strive upon what I do well.


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