Iowa City VA to launch podcast focused on veterans’ health concerns

By MICHAELA RAMM | The (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) Gazette | Published: December 3, 2019

IOWA CITY, Iowa (Tribune News Service) — Researchers study a slew of issues that affect veterans’ health, working to find solutions for the challenges they face every day.

But what is the veteran experience with the medical conditions that researchers work to understand?

In an upcoming podcast, a pair of Veterans Affairs researchers hope to provide a platform for veterans to share their stories and to shed light on their experience at the Iowa City-based facility.

“I want to hear from them,” said Levi Sowers, podcast host and a research health science specialist at the Iowa City VA. “I think that’s a valuable thing to have for a researcher, especially one that doesn’t get a lot of clinical aspects, and translating that into a story we can tell.”

Called “The Vets First Podcast,” the episodes are hosted by Sowers and Brandon Rea, a research assistant at the Iowa City VA.

While the podcast is focused on the Iowa City VA Health Care System and its work, the target audience is veterans nationwide.

The Iowa City VA is slated to launch the episodes in the near future.

Throughout the series, the hosts discuss a specific medical condition through the eyes of a veteran as well as the clinicians or researchers who are familiar with that topic.

In the first episode, Air Force veteran Doug Lamphier talks about the migraines he experiences as a result of a traumatic brain injury he received while deployed overseas during Operation Desert Storm.

The interviews with veterans can be very candid and emotional, according to the hosts.

In addition, the hosts hope to spread awareness of the work done by researchers and providers in the Iowa City VA to understand and treat the medical conditions that affect veterans’ health and wellness.

“If you ask the average veteran if they know the research exists at the VA, they’ll tell you, ‘No,’ which I think is a problem, since research is one of the three pillars of the VA,” Sowers said. “It’s a very important part of the VA, and I think we need to do a better job communicating that to veterans.”

For a series of episodes set to be released later, Sowers and Rea sat down with Dr. Christie Thomas, a University of Iowa nephrologist, to discuss kidney disease.

Thomas also shared information about the Iowa City VA’s new kidney transplant program, which entails placing hepatitis C-positive kidneys into patients who do not have the virus. The Iowa City-based hospital became the first VA hospital to implement that program earlier this year.

During the episode, Thomas called the program innovative, stating that it opens the door for more patients in need of new organs to be taken off the waiting list even sooner.

When developing the podcast during the past year, Sowers and Rea initially planned to focus entirely on research done at the Iowa City VA. However, as the work progressed, Rea said they expanded their comfort zone and decided to focus on the VA nationwide.

“I think it’s important to just get the awareness out there that the VA is a place that has multiple types of treatments that veterans can get, and making the veteran feel comfortable about coming to the VA for health care, in any capacity,” Sowers said. “Then, on top of that, communicating research that we do is pretty fantastic.”

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