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Coordinated care for veterans

An interview with a PacMed physician

Dr. Miriam Kennelly with PacMed has experience working with veterans. Photo credit: PacMed

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Navigating a healthcare system can be challenging. While clinics and hospitals strive to ensure timely access and relevant care, it's also important that patients feel confident advocating for their needs. To build better understanding of both short- and long-term care, Dr. Miriam Kennelly with Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed) addresses common questions and concerns of the military population, including veterans. Dr. Kennelly fostered a passion for veterans' care early in her career, during her medical training at the VA in Los Angeles. She looks forward to caring for Washington military families, while helping all her patients seek the care that's best for them.

What common medical issues do U.S. Military members face? Any tips on finding care?

The most common medical issues I typically come across when treating veterans are general health visits (cancer screening, vaccinations, annual visits), along with mental health concerns, substance-use issues, sleep disturbances, musculoskeletal pain, back pain, and ringing in the ears. At PacMed, we offer access to behavioral medicine, sports medicine, physiatry, podiatry and otolaryngology (ear-nose-throat). We also can help with referrals to audiology services and substance-use disorder teams.

I recommend looking for physicians and clinicians that work together as a comprehensive, integrated team to ensure you receive the best care possible. Find out if your primary care provider is able to work directly with your local VA Medical Center and whether all records are transferred between clinics for a seamless treatment experience.

What questions do you receive from someone transitioning to civilian life?

At PacMed, we treat many patients who are in the process of transitioning to civilian life. If you have been in the military most of your adult life, such a change can be unsettling. And the process of finding a doctor and establishing care can be overwhelming. It is important to find a primary care provider who can understand your previous medical care and what you may need going forward to prioritize your health - both mentally and physically.

For those who are in the process of transitioning to civilian life, I recommend the following:

1. Establish a Primary Care Provider (PCP) - This is the same idea as a primary care manager. Your PCP will act as the hub of your care, seeing you for most needs, and coordinating specialty care or tests when needed. PacMed has nine convenient neighborhood clinics and many PCPs who are currently accepting new patients. Our online scheduling tool is a great way to get started.

2. Schedule an Annual General Wellness Exam - Once you've selected a PCP, schedule a General Wellness Exam. You do not need to have any issues, injuries or symptoms for this exam. Its focus is preventive care, so maintaining wellness, avoiding health issues, and catching any health problems in the early stages. This exam is a good way for you and your PCP to become acquainted.

3. Coordinate Age-Appropriate Screenings, Shots and Tests - At every age, it is important to stay on top of health screenings, vaccinations, and lab work. You can work directly with your Primary Care Provider to book a yearly flu shot, get a mental health screening or check in with managing a chronic disease. At PacMed, your PCP can work directly with the different medical specialties and teams to ensure you get the care you need - often, all at the same clinic.

How soon after a move should someone schedule a medical appointment?

One reason to schedule a wellness visit with your new Primary Care Provider is to establish care with them. This gets the "paperwork" started and sets you up as a patient. When you need care in the future, it will be seamless: you are already a known patient in your doctor's system. So, I recommend scheduling a wellness appointment for you and each family member as soon as possible following a move. Also, moves often bring unexpected stressors, both physical and mental, and a visit with your PCP helps ensure you and your family are in good shape.

I am honored to treat members and families of the U.S. military. I often work with VA Medical Centers across the country to ensure their health records and other pertinent information are properly transferred before I meet with a new patient. At PacMed, coordination of care is incredibly important to us, and we are here to help make the transition as smooth as possible. I also encourage patients to utilize their patient portal to access their medical records, appointment scheduling, billing, prescription refills and more.

Understanding the medical landscape can be daunting and overwhelming. The best first step you can take is to establish care with a new PCP. May you stay safe and healthy.

To schedule a medical appointment with Dr. Kennelly, visit


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