Photo Page: 2018 SUMR Tour of Philadelphia's Crescenz VA Medical Center

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Photo Page: 2018 SUMR Tour of Philadelphia's Crescenz VA Medical Center

Penn-Affiliated Facility is a Major Center of Health Services Research Focused on Health Disparities

Photo montage: Hoag Levins
As part of the LDI Summer Undergraduate Minority Research (SUMR) program, this year's scholars toured the Crescenz Veterans Affairs Medical Center, located directly next to the University of Pennsylvania campus. Sponsored by LDI and the Wharton School Health Care Management Department, the three-month long SUMR program is aimed at underrepresented minority undergraduates and others interested in exploring potential careers in the field of health services research (HSR). The visit was designed to familiarize the scholars with the extensive HSR programs that are a core part of the national system of VA medical centers as well as the local VA Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP). The act of visiting the Philadelphia VA Medical Center for the first time was also the experience of becoming familiar with the 19-year-old Philadelphian for whom the Center is now named: U.S. Army Corporal Michael J. Crescenz. On November 11, 1968, Crescenz died in a ferocious firefight 35 miles southwest of Danang, in a rugged strip of jungle hill country that was one of the most battle-ravaged areas of the entire Vietnam War. He was posthumously awarded the Army Medal of Honor for heroic actions that cost his life but saved the rest of his infantry unit. Click images for larger.

The two dozen SUMR Scholars were welcomed by CHERP Administrative Director Steve Martin (above, left) who is pointing at a wall photo display about the Philadelphia VA's programs for homeless veterans. CHERP is a long-time supporter of the SUMR program, which it also partially funds. Above, right, the Scholars enjoy pizza and salad as they listen to a presentation about CHERP's broad range of current research projects. Fifteen LDI Senior Fellows are involved in those investigations. The sixteen-year-old CHERP is the VA's national center for innovation and health services research and is primarily focused on research related to the health and health care of vulnerable veteran populations. "Programs like the LDI SUMR Scholars are very valuable for us," Martin told the group, "because they give us a chance to inspire students to pursue careers in this field and become the future physicians, nurses and academic scholars who will help solve the problems we face across our VA system in the years to come." 

As she led the tour, CHERP Communications Specialist Carson Clark (hand raised) explained that the Medical Center is staffed by more than 2,000 employees who care for 55,000 veterans at the main facility and clinics throughout the surrounding counties. She also noted that the CHERP's broad-based health services research work has generated new evidence-based methods used across the country's network of 150 VA hospitals. Some of those ongoing research projects, she said, involve as many as 21 other VA locations. Gathered around her are (l to r) SUMR Program Director Joanne Levy, SUMR Scholars Amanda Carrillo-Perez of Swarthmore College, Ayomide Ojebuoboh of Boston University, Chidinma Wilson of Oakwood University, Zara Wermers of Tufts University, Audrey Fretzin of Penn, and SUMR intern Gabrielle Posner.

Gathered around the World War I "Doughboy" sculpture that guards the entrance to the Crescenz VA Medical Center are [Rear row] SUMR Scholars Mohamed Abdirisak and Khalida Saalim, SUMR intern Gabrielle Posner, SUMR Scholars Audrey Fretzin, Zara Wermers, Risha Sheni, and Chidinma Wilson. [Second row] Eric Shan, CHERP's Carson Clark, SUMR Scholars Amanda Carrillo-Perez, Ayomide Ojebuoboh, SUMR Coordinator Safa Browne and SUMR Program Director Joanne Levy. [Sitting row] Fatoumata Barry, Alec Hilton, Grace Nie, Manuel Alcala, Christine Olagun-Samuel, Nahnsan Guseh, Janiece Strange, Tania Calle, and Tolu Omole. [Ground row] SUMR intern Carley Grife, SUMR Scholars Sergio Chairez, and William Jackson.