This summer, honor Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) South Texas Virginia Integrated Medicine Fellowship Program (IMFP) and University of Texas Health at San Antonio Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship with HERO Award.
The award was presented “for your tireless efforts, extraordinary service and care as frontline health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The IMFP is one of six nationwide programs that provide unique training opportunities to care for some of the most vulnerable veteran populations. The program offers geriatrics, nursing homes and palliative medicine To the more than 100,000 veterans living in South Texas.
“I’ve seen how hard you work.”
Mike Torino wears two hats. As one of two palliative care social workers on the disciplinary team, which also includes chaplains, pharmacists, psychologists, and nursing and medical staff, he is also the VFW of Post 76 in San Antonio.
It was the admiration of his Virginia colleagues that earned them the recognition they deserved. “Being a part of this program and being alongside each and every one of you have seen how hard you work and your dedication to serving patients,” Torino said.
One of the dwelling team members, Reverend Eric Gonzalez, said supporting families is something he will always cherish during the fellowship. “I was called to the family of a veteran to offer a bedside prayer,” Gonzalez said. “The veteran’s family was having some difficulty letting him go. I helped them understand the situation and use the time they had left, ‘Just be and say the five most important things… Please forgive, I forgive, I love, I remember, and I will never forget.’”
“It is admirable because it is such a challenge.”
VFW 20th District Commander and veteran Bill Smith, whose wife is a physician, knows how difficult healthcare, especially healthcare, can be during a pandemic. “The path I chose, you chose to take care of people as they leave this world and go into another world,” Smith said. “It’s impressive because it’s such a challenge.”
Smith spoke about the evolution of both organizations, and how the pandemic has affected how each conducts its businesses. He drew parallels between the rush of COVID patients facing the IMFP and the rush of veterans flocking to VFWs after the start of the Global War on Terror.
Dr. Douglas Boyer, Acting Vice President of Personnel, thanked the VFW leadership for being such strong partners and told the public about his first interaction with VFW two decades ago. After going on vacation, he finds himself alone late at night at an airport. The only person around was a gentleman from VFW. Boyer said he got a Burger King gift card and it turned out to be one of the tastiest meals he had.
“I knew then that VFW would forever hold a place in my heart,” Boyer said.
“Our heart goes out to you.”
The 76th Post’s commander, Marine Corps veteran Robert Hernandez, reiterated the mission’s sentiments. “You know we all have one mission in common and that mission is caring for veterans. We did that over a hundred years ago and we still do it today.”
Torino said the team continued to provide safe, timely and high-quality care under the most extreme conditions. For the palliative care team, one of the most important aspects is providing compassionate care.
“See you,” Hernandez said. “Because I’ve been to multiple hospitals and see what each of you is going through by caring alone. We know what you’re going through. Our hearts are yours, so please don’t stop doing what you’re doing because our lives depend on you.”