VISN 6 Recognizes Geriatric Scholars Program Gradu - VA Mid-Atlantic Health Care Network
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VA Mid-Atlantic Health Care Network


VISN 6 Recognizes Geriatric Scholars Program Gradu

A Durham VAMC Provider works with a geriatric patient at bedside

By integrating geriatric medicine into primary care practices, VA Geriatric Scholars Program has a multiplier effect, creatively promoting function and independence in older adults.

By Photo by Linnie Skidmore
Wednesday, April 4, 2018

 VISN 6 is pleased to recognize graduates of the VA Geriatric Scholars Program. 

Now in its 10th year, with 800 Scholars in more than 370 clinics, the VA Geriatric Scholars Program is a workforce development program offered by VA’s offices of Rural Health, and Geriatrics and Extended Care, to integrate state-of-the-art geriatric health care into primary care practice.

The program trains providers who may treat elderly patients in typical or emergency medical settings, to be alert for and prepared to handle health conditions they may not see as often with younger patients. Currently, 22 VISN 6 providers have graduated from the program and are clinically active.

The opportunity is available to a limited number of primary care clinicians, pharmacists, and psychologists, working in Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT) or Home Based Primary Care (HBPC). 

Geriatric Scholars study an intensive, accredited, didactic education course in geriatric medicine offered through prominent universities or VA Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Centers (GRECC).

They also participate in an intensive quality improvement (QI) workshop led by the widely-acclaimed VA / Robert Wood Johnson National Quality Scholars program.  Each Geriatric Scholar is then required to initiate their own QI project, that will help local facilities in meet performance improvement goals required of all PACT programs. Some examples are included with the list of participants below, for categories: timely screening and treatment of common Geriatric diagnoses, Veteran access to care, and Caregiver Support.

Primary Care staff who become Geriatric Scholars can recognize, evaluate, and provide referral and/or treatment for common geriatric medical issues, such as cognitive impairment, falls, and maintaining independence in the home setting. 

By integrating geriatric medicine into primary care practices, VA Geriatric Scholars Program has a multiplier effect, spreading geriatric medicine expertise to many more Veterans.  The program encourages an inter-professional team approach toward innovation and creatively promoting function and independence in older adults. It is an example of VA’s commitment to high quality care for all Veterans.        

Six VISN 6 employees, listed below, recently completed the core course of the VA enterprise-wide Geriatric Scholars Program and are now eligible to continue the program to gain additional skills.  They are joined by six more VISN 6 staff just starting participation, beginning in March 2018:(Kia Livingston (Salisbury VAMC), Rhonda Weinhold (Staunton VA CBOC), April 2018: Emmeline Cook (Richmond VAMC), and Ashley Mosely (Asheville VAMC), September 2018: Abigail Ellis (Hampton VAMC), Beth White (Staunton VA CBOC).

Additional information about the Geriatric Scholars Program can be found at:  Nominations are generally accepted once a year in the fall; nomination is made through your facility and the VISN Geriatrics and Extended Care Clinical Lead, Dr. Judy Brannen (, 804 675-5481).



Scholar’s Name



QI Project Title

Marie Barker


Rutherford VA CBOC

Improving Dementia Screening for HBPC Older Veterans

Diane Hancock


Richmond VAMC

Post-Hospital Follow Up Visits in Geriatric Health Care Center

Mary Jacobs Dodson


Salem VAMC

Dementia Screening and Triage in Primary Care

Tabitha Sierra


Hampton VAMC

Increasing Group Attendance in a Veterans Affairs CLC

Tasha Simmons


Chesapeake VA CBOC

Education and Support for Caregivers of Veterans with Major Neurocognitive Disorder

Jennifer Wartella


Charlottesville VA CBOC

Increasing Detection and Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in a Geriatric HBPC Program










In addition, we would like to recognize prior alumni of the Geriatric Scholars Program, who remain clinically active and share their geriatric expertise with their Veteran Patients and their co-workers:


2009      Karen Austin                     MD                      Biloxi VAMC

2010      Holly Harris                      MSW                   Rutherford County VA CBOC

2012      Shubhada Iruvanti              DO                       Hampton VAMC

2013      Mary Caputi                      PharmD               Hickory VA CBOC

2013      Mary Morehouse               DO                       Fayetteville VAMC

2013      Laura White                       LCSW                  Asheville VAMC

2015      Karen Grindstaff               MSN                    Rutherford County VA CBOC

2015      Devin Kelly                       MSN                    Asheville VAMC

2016      Vicki Dull                          MD                      Staunton VA CBOC

2016      Diane Hancock                  GNP                     Richmond VAMC

2016      Tabitha Sierra                    PsyD                    Hampton VAMC

2016      Tasha Simmons                 PsyD                    Chesapeake VA CBOC

2017      Lynn Telford                      MD                      Asheville VAMC

2017      Angela Lucas                     MSW, LCSW      Greenville VA CBOC

2017      Marie Barker                      PhD                      Rutherford County VA CBOC

2017      Jennifer Wartella               PhD                      Charlottesville VA CBOC

2017      David Benthall                   MSOT                  Hillandale VA CBOC

2017      Rhonda Hensley                FNP, DNP            Asheville VAMC

2017      Carvin Harmon                  LCSW                  Albemarle VA CBOC

2017      Felicia Jones                      MS                       Chesapeake VA CBOC

2017      Tony Curry                        BS                        Robeson County VA CBOC


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