Don't Call Me Mister

By: Lt.Col. Joanne T. Farris

The one service Nevada National Guard woman can depend on when they return home from active duty is quality gender specific health care.  The Veteran’s Administration
 (VA) Woman’s Veteran’s Health Care Program recently launched a cultural change campaign to get the word out to returning Woman Veterans.  The campaign quotes,
“ Please don’t call me mister. Think twice about how you address her. It’s our job to give her the best care anywhere.”

Woman in the Nevada National Guard comprise of 27% of the force, which equates to over 800 female soldiers.  The amount of females in the Nevada Army National Guard is slightly higher than the national average of 14%.  During the past two years over 457    female soldiers deployed in support of operations.  This number comprises of over 50% of the female force. 

According to Capt. Laura Boldly, the first female commander from the Nevada Guard to deploy to Afghanistan, “Woman in the military need access to health care especially gynecological care both when they deploy and after. There is a lack of gynecological care on the battlefield as well as at demobilization stations.  The demobilization physical did not include any female gender specific health checks such as cervical cancer screenings or monograms.”

The VA will spend $241 million this year on gender-specific care such as cervical cancer screenings and gynecology according to Patricia Hayes chief consultant for female Veterans health at the VA. Female veterans can get any medical service they need. At each VA Medical Center nationwide, a Women Veterans Program Manager is designated to assist women Veterans. They help coordinate all the services from primary care, medical services. Mental Health, and Sexual Abuse Counseling. 

In northern Nevada, the VA Woman’s Health Care program Coordinator is Ms. Zola Ferguson.  Most unique about Ms. Ferguson, is she is an Iraq and Afghanistan war Veteran and a member of the Nevada National Guard which gives her the much needed competencies to assist woman in the Nevada Guard with services available. Ms. Ferguson stated with a lot of enthusiasm, “Lots of energy is being put in the Woman’s health care program. Woman are the fastest growing population of Veteran’s nation wide. The amount of woman registered at the northern Nevada continues to grow at 7% per year with an anticipated enrollment number for females of 2,500 by 2015.   At the Reno VA, woman can get Gynecological care by a female physician.  So far this year, I am happy to announce The Northern Nevada VA has funded 12 deliveries since 2010 through the woman’s health care program!”

Coming home can be a difficult transition for any soldier, but especially  for female soldiers. Getting gender specific care immediately can be critical. “Getting the word out about access to woman’s health care is crucial.” Said Ferguson, “You earned the care through your service – use it!”

For more information regarding the Woman’s Heath Care Program contact  Zola Ferguson, MS, PA-C, Women Veterans Program Manager at 775 786-7200 Ext. 1767. 

(Lt. Col Joanne T. Farris leads the Command Information Section for the Nevada Army National Guard as a traditional soldier.  Full-time, she is a employee at the VA Sierra Nevada Health System where she works in Human Resources.)