VA Marks 75th Anniversary of Academic Affiliations - Jesse Brown VA Medical Center
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Jesse Brown VA Medical Center


VA Marks 75th Anniversary of Academic Affiliations

January 29, 2021

Throughout 2021, the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center (VAMC) will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the VA academic affiliation program, a program that began in Chicago with the first residents from Northwestern University. 

Academic affiliations with VA began in 1946. As World War II ended, VA did not have the resources necessary to provide adequate care to the more than 1,000,000 new patients returning from the war. The academic affiliation program began to create the workforce of students, physician residents, and faculty necessary to provide world-class to Veterans, as well as provide training opportunities to future generations of physicians. 

“We are excited about this anniversary because of its historical connection to Chicago. It gives an opportunity to celebrate that history and the good the program has done for Veterans and for everyone who works in health care,” said Dr. Sarah Unterman, Chief of Staff at Jesse Brown.  

The benefit of the VA academic affiliation program reaches beyond Veterans. VA provides medical training to more than 120,000 people every year. Approximately 70% of all physicians in the United States received some training with VA. The partnership between the VA and medical schools has led to many health care innovations over the years. For example, the partnership worked together on the development and accreditation of the clinical discipline of psychology making vast improvements in both access and quality of care. The partnership also led to establishing the physician assistant profession. The innovations and benefits continue today. 

“Our affiliations greatly benefit our patients. During COVID, staff from both our affiliates (Northwestern University and the University of Illinois, Chicago) came together to form a special team that performed bedside procedures on COVID patients in the ICU. This allowed the ICU team to focus on other aspects of the patients' care,” said Unterman.  

Shortly after the program was established in January 1946, Northwestern University sent residents to train at the Hines VA Hospital. As the VA mission expanded over the years, it built hospitals near medical schools to increase the mutual benefits of the affiliations. In 1953 the West Side VA Hospital was built in the Illinois Medical District and VA Research Hospital was built in 1954 near the Northwestern University Campus and the academic affiliation with Northwestern moved there from Hines. The West Side Hospital eventually became the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and the Research Hospital became the Lakeside VA Hospital. Those facilities merged into the Chicago VA Medical Center. 

The affiliation program is important to many Chicago area physicians.  

“I am very excited about this 75th anniversary because my two personal academic affiliates (Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Chicago) were the first to send residents to VA training sites,” said Dr. Andrea Birnbaum, Designated Education Officer. 

“When people ask what the affiliation means to me, for me it’s very personal. I did my residency here at the University of Illinois and half of my time was spent at the VA. Once you get in the VA, it’s like a calling. Once I got here, I never left,” said Dr. Jeffrey Ryan, Chief of Medicine at Jesse Brown.  

With more than 1,200 facilities, the Veterans Health Administration is the largest health care network in the country. Through the academic affiliation partnerships, VA leads the largest medical training and education program in the country. The Jesse Brown VAMC will host events and publish information throughout the year about different facets of the academic affiliation program.  

About the Jesse Brown VA: Jesse Brown VAMC is located near downtown Chicago in the Illinois Medical District. It is a 220-bed acute care facility and operates four community-based outpatient clinics in Auburn Gresham, Lakeside, Chicago Heights, and Crown Point, IN. Jesse Brown VAMC provides care to approximately 62,000 enrolled Veterans who reside in the City of Chicago, Cook County, and six counties in northwestern Indiana.