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2023 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract

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5001 — Leveraging Veterans Experience for Research

Lead/Presenter: Ray Facundo
All Authors: Facundo RC, VA Collaborative Evaluation Center; ATLAS Campus Evaluation

The ATLAS Campus Evaluation is asking Veterans enrolled in a college or university if they would use a VA program that provides telehealth services to them at local area stations, such as a private space on their campus.

This evaluation includes recruiting and interviewing up to 25 Veterans about their health needs, expectations, and acceptability of ATLAS Campus. The next phase includes interviewing university administrators to determine if the ATLAS Campus program is feasible on their campus, and to identify concerns and challenges to setting up and utilizing the program.

When the project was proposed, I was asked to consult the research team on the needs of student Veterans. I thought my background could be helpful in recruiting and interviewing, so I asked to be more involved. They hired me on as the project manager and data analyst. My experience as a Veteran was key to the success of this project.

At the very beginning, the team wrote up a brief call for participants and distributed it to VBA, who disseminated the call to all GI Bill and VA education benefit users. This yielded poor results. Only five students answered and three did not follow up after contacting them. I designed a flyer explaining the study and asked that we host QandA sessions before the interviews to build trust with students and administrators. I began talking with leadership at Student Veterans of America (SVA) and we quickly built rapport. When I asked SVA if they’d be open to partnering with us for future projects, they enthusiastically agreed. By the end of the first meeting, they agreed to distribute the flyer to their membership. Within the next three weeks, we had scheduled 23 interviews, and completed 20 of them.

My experience as a Veteran was key to explaining the need for the program to the partnering organizations that helped us recruit participants. I spent six years in the Army and spent many years directing a Veterans Resource Center at a city university before working for VHA. I expect that this project will meet all of its goals. Furthermore, the SVA will continue as partners in VA research, as long as we maintain our relationship and share what we’ve learned from their students.