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Contribute to the ongoing innovation of women’s health at VA

As we celebrate Women’s History Month throughout March, and International Women’s Day on March 8, we recognize the contributions women have made at VA. We also celebrate the work our providers do each day to offer better women’s health care to Veterans.

Highlights from VA history

For over 100 years, women have played an important role in the development and support of VA’s mission to support Veterans, and there’s no sign of them stopping anytime soon.

  • Dr. Margaret D. Craighill became VA’s first chief medical consultant on women Veterans’ medical care in 1946 and appointed the first 10 doctors at VA to treat women Veterans.
  • Viola Johnson was the first African American woman to lead a VA hospital when she became director of the Battle Creek, Michigan Medical Center.
  • Susan Mather, M.D., Ph.D., became head of the Women Veterans Health Program in 1988. During her tenure, she established eight Women Veterans Comprehensive Health Centers to develop new and enhanced programs focusing on the unique health care needs of women Veterans.
  • Patricia M. Hayes, Ph.D., was appointed chief consultant for VA’s Women’s Health Services in 2008. In addition to currently overseeing the delivery and quality of health care for women Veterans throughout VA systems, she is instrumental in changing VA’s language, practice, and culture to be more inclusive of women.

Without these health care pioneers—as well as many others—VA would not be the organization it is today. As we serve the most diverse group of Veterans in history, and the largest group of women Veterans we’ve ever seen, we remain committed to hiring staff that understand their needs.

Women’s health at VA today

Women make up 10 percent of the current Veteran population, and over 600,000 women come to VA for their health care needs. To support these Veterans, we support a comprehensive focus on women’s health issues by welcoming new members to our women’s health team.

At VA, we have primary care providers who provide general medical care for acute and chronic diseases as well as gender-specific primary care, which includes cervical cancer screening, breast cancer screening, preconception counseling, menopausal support and more.

We also provide a full spectrum of reproductive health services, such as contraception management, gynecological procedures, pregnancy support, and infertility care.

With these services, we serve female Veterans throughout their lives, and enthusiastically welcome primary care providers, gynecologists, and more. No matter your area of expertise, you can play a role in caring for our women Veterans.  

“Our female Veteran population is growing, and the services for female Veterans are expanding,” explained Melinda Matos-Toro, a clinical pharmacy specialist at the Mayagüez VA Outpatient Clinic. “The services that are being provided for the female Veterans are exceptional and very comprehensive.”

We’re also looking towards the future, and aiming to find new avenues of care. Our Office of Healthcare Innovation and Learning (OHIL) has been working hard to identify and promote technologies like virtual reality (VR) across the VA health care system.

“We believe immersive technology is defining a new reality in Veteran health care, and we’re excited to see growth and expansion of a clinical tool that Veterans and VA staff continue to request,” said Dr. Anne Lord Bailey, the immersive technology lead for OHIL.

Hear from our team

We have many strong, capable women who work at VA, and they aren’t shy about sharing what their work—and our mission—means to them.

“Here at the VA, it’s an awesome place to work. It’s really awe inspiring,” said Raquel Gonzalez-⁠Hodge, recreation therapy program supervisor at the VA Caribbean Health Care System at San Juan, Puerto Rico. “We’re very dedicated staff. We know our role and our mission, and we carry that in our hearts.”

“I had the opportunity to learn from my preceptors about the importance of being a preceptor, being a teacher, being a mentor, being a coach,” said Roxana Torres, the dietetic internship program director at San Juan. “You will have the support of the system for you to continue learning, for you to continue growing professionally, but you will also have that connection with the patients.”

“We are like a family. I’ve only worked here about a year, but I could probably tell you almost everything about everybody that works there,” agreed Lauran Warburton, registered nurse and admissions coordinator at the Butler VAMC domiciliary. “The Veterans, when they come in, and you get to shake their hand, it’s great to be able to interact with them.”

Work at VA

At VA, we know that health care is not one-size-fits all. By joining our team, you can make a difference in Veteran and health care communities across the country.

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