At the height of the debate over the Affordable Care Act three years ago, I was in my last year of medical school, juggling rotations at private hospitals, a large university hospital and charity county clinics.
But it was my rotation at the local Veterans Affairs health system that showed me the future of primary medical care and taught me the virtues of attacking illness on many fronts. It’s a lesson that will be acutely needed nationwide once the Affordable Care Act goes into effect and sends legions of newly insured patients into clinics and hospitals.
My first patient in medical school was a 25-year-old Iraq war vet from a small farming town in Idaho. A star high school football player, he had enlisted in the Army on his 18th birthday so he could see the world and afford college. Within his first month in Iraq, a satellite pole fell on him during a brutal sandstorm. Multiple leg surgeries later, he was sent back to America battling chronic pain and dependent on narcotics. Using a cane to walk, my patient grew depressed, gained 30 pounds and became a diabetic.