In January, WHI Communications Committee member, Erin Spanier, met with Ginny Creasman, the medical center director of the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and WHI Steering Committee member, to discuss how she originally got involved in veterans’ health, her proudest accomplishments, and what inspires her to continue working for improved health in our community.
Q. What inspired your passion for veterans’ health?
Creasman. This February marked 30 years of my time working in veterans’ health care.
I intended to come to the VA for just awhile—then move on, do some research, and teach. However, I was a pharmacist at the time and the VA had invented and implemented the first electronic healthcare record. We were going through a revolution within the VA with computerized records and barcode technology—making all of these advancements in service to veterans. I could follow clients in the inpatient setting, to outpatient, to long-term care—you know, all along the veteran’s journey. [From the VA, I felt that] I could implement things that had a broader impact on health care.
I also have several family members who served. We call it “multicultural”—because there were some in the Marines, the Army, the Navy, and the Coast Guard. My grandfather served from 1941 to 1945, literally from the beginning to end of World War II. So, my service to veterans seemed only natural.
Q. What kinds of health challenges or gaps keep you up at night?
Creasman. What keeps me up at night is managing veterans’ health as they go through huge, convoluted systems of care. But what I love about the VA is that we can help them, step by step, with their needs.
However, many veterans are also being served in the community. There may be some strengths, like a location that allows care closer to home, but I get concerned about what else might not be available. We want to make sure veterans are being served well and can navigate the healthcare system transitions with success.
Q. What are some of your proudest professional accomplishments?
Creasman. In the mid-90s, the VA built and implemented our own electronic health record (EHR) system. This was long before there was Epic, Cerner and other EHR systems. I think that this went a long way in improving care. It helped us not only innovate for the VA, but for the community. Soon after, they started making the push for everyone to be on EHRs.
For example, when Hurricane Katrina hit, VA employees were sent down to help. The ability for us to pick up our EHR and make it available to continue a veteran’s care—that was a proud moment for me. It really highlighted the importance and the impact a nation-wide healthcare system and EHR programming.
Q. How has the Washtenaw Health Initiative been helpful to you?
Creasman. The WHI is a place where I can give voice of the VA and what we bring to the table. I love that we talk about some of the bigger issues that fall outside of health care, like factors that create health disparities. It gives me a chance to share in the mission of helping our most vulnerable—our homeless, elderly, and medically frail. It also allows me to learn from others. And hopefully I have insights to impart as well.
Q. Who or what inspires you to continue working to address health disparities and needs in our community?
Creasman. It’s really the veterans, which includes our employees. I love that I get the chance to serve those who served [our country] and also work with them. I’m inspired when I see our staff who have that commitment to go above and beyond in meeting the needs of a veteran.