• AUG 24, 2020

    The role of SIS members and the 4th mission of the VA during the COVID pandemic

    Kamal Itani MD, Past President of SIS

    Very few within and outside the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) are aware of the VA fourth mission. The VA is traditionally known for its 3 missions consisting of delivering health care, benefits and burial to Veterans. The fourth mission is enacted at the time of a National crisis and consists of using the VA’s extensive healthcare network and resources as a reserve for the DoD in response to war, terrorism, national emergencies, and natural disasters.  The fourth mission was enacted this year during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is relevant to our Surgical Infection Society as several of our members have participated in the VA fourth mission in their role as active duty or reserve in the DoD, Veterans, or like me working at a VA Medical Center.

     I invite you to read our paper in JAMA surgery describing the role that we at the VA played in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic outside the VA. (Massarweh et al, JAMA surg; August 18, 2020). An example that I am particularly proud of, is our own VA Boston Health Care System where despite a COVID surge in Massachusetts, we were able to deploy staff, share resources with our affiliates and receive affected patients from community nursing homes. In addition, and because of shortages in test kit supplies, we were able to 3D print our own swabs and share with others. The virology lab at the West Haven VA started validating saliva testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a test that is easier and quicker and is now FDA approved.

    I encourage you to become more familiar with the VA and the services it provides our country. My interest, research in surgical infections and clinical practice spanning over the last 25 years have been primarily at the VA. Like many of my SIS colleagues, I am very proud of our accomplishments and honored to serve our special patient population and the community when in need.