Wilkie’s visit lifts healthcare workers’ spirits - VA Salt Lake City Health Care System
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Wilkie’s visit lifts healthcare workers’ spirits

Robert Wilkie presents Patricia Davis with a special “Challenge” coin

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie surprises VA Canteen Sales Associate Patricia Davis with a special “Challenge” coin.

By T.S. Jarmusz
Tuesday, October 20, 2020

VA workers received a note of thanks Thursday – straight from the top.

Touring VA's main campus, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie recognized employees for their efforts in caring for service members. His words lifted the spirits of exhausted healthcare workers now bracing for another surge of a relentless pandemic. 

“I’m here to thank the VA employees here in Salt Lake,” Wilkie said. “They have stepped forward during these incredibly trying times, not only providing sustenance and service to the Veterans of Utah, but they have deployed throughout this state and actually across the country to serve their fellow citizens.”

One of those Wilkie thanked was Physical Therapist Dana Schmieder.

“Being recognized at that level came as a complete surprise,” Schmieder said. “To be honest though, it felt so meaningful to be acknowledged by the staff at our VA. What a great experience and incredible memory this will always be.”

Flanked by Utah Senator Mitt Romney, Willie’s visit included a stop at VA Video Connect University. The university is a two-day in-person telehealth training course to help get providers up to speed – and VA’s first in the nation.

“This is the epicenter,” Wilkie said of VVC. “This is where we’re training VA employees from across the country to reach their fellow Veterans through telehealth.”

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie talks with VA Physical Therapist Dana Schmieder
U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie talks with VA Physical Therapist Dana Schmieder during a visit to Salt Lake City to thank VA employees.

Wilkie highlighted the importance of providing mental health service during the pandemic. He highlighted VA’s rapid expansion of its virtual services.

“We have expanded mental health telehealth in ways that no one thought possible,” he said. “That allows us to reach and to continue to touch those Veterans who might be in danger.”

Wilkie also toured the medical center’s new Gait Lab, which helps Veterans with walking difficulties. He then visited its Canteen, and in a tender, unscripted moment, presented a longtime canteen worker with a special "Challenge" coin.

It was a small gesture, but an important one ­– especially in these trying times. And like the Veterans they serve, Wilkie said VA employees would do what it takes to complete the mission.

Of employees, he said, they “represent the best of us: People who are performing their duty no matter what the situation is.”


More about VA Video Connect University

VA tech forges Veteran connections

To get providers up to speed on remote diagnoses for Veterans, medical professionals at the Salt Lake City VA created VA Video Connect University, a two-day in-person training course -- and VA’s first in the nation. Read the full story.

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