Students research health issues for veterans, create resources

January 11, 2022 (Volume 45, Number 9)
Article by Peg West

Student research addressing health concerns for military veterans, conducted as part of a  health communication class, will also be used as a resource for helping Laker veterans.

The research resulted in a white paper about burn pits and their effect on military personnel as well as a presentation about the impact of traumatic brain injuries on veterans, said Jill Hinton Wolfe, GVSU military and veterans resource manager.

Wolfe said this work is part of an ongoing collaboration with Lorie Jager, affiliate professor of health communication.

The issue of burn pits is a little-known issue that Wolfe said affects thousands of veterans, including some Lakers. Burn pits are used to incinerate waste generated by military bases.

The ongoing concerns for veterans are health problems that can result from exposure to toxins that are released from the burn pits, according to the white paper produced by students Marissa Acevedo, Alex Dagostino, Lajoya Fulton and Kaley Louck.

Those same four students also developed the presentation on traumatic brain injuries, describing symptoms, levels of severity and possible challenges, including academically.

In each case, Grand Valley veterans provided data for the research.

Wolfe said she intends to share the findings with campus advocacy organizations and will also use the information to help educate the GVSU community about these concerns for veterans.

"This class is just one small example of how we’re innovating and partnering across divisions at Grand Valley, and of the culture of inclusion at our university," Wolfe said. "It’s so refreshing to have Laker students, staff and faculty truly want to understand and support military veterans in ways that have real impact."

Louck said it was an important experience to have this perspective about veterans, and particularly Laker veterans.

"Though I have always been supportive of our veteran community, it wasn’t until now that I could understand the struggles they face," said Louck, a health communication major. "While most students at GVSU are just trying to successfully finish our degrees, our service members have already completed active duty and are coming home to begin yet another difficult mission."

Acevedo expressed hope that this work will have a positive impact on campus and beyond.

"It was a great opportunity to learn more about the health risks veterans and service members face and discover ways I can be an advocate for fellow Lakers on and off campus," said Acevedo, a health communication major. "I gained valuable knowledge about the Military and Veterans Resource Center at GVSU, and I'm happy to be a part of creating powerful tools to educate and raise awareness on helpful resources."

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This article was last edited on January 10, 2022 at 3:4 p.m.

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