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Dr. Joyce and Van Zandt VA Medical Center Hold Homegrown Health Care Initiative Kick Off in Altoona

Altoona, PA – Congressman John Joyce, M.D. (PA-13) and the James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center (VAMC) today hosted a kick off event for the Homegrown Health Care Initiative, including a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new dormitory facility that will serve students participating in the program.

Dr. Joyce developed the Homegrown Health Care Initiative as a direct solution for our region’s physician shortage – at no cost to the taxpayer. This program, which began this summer, connects medical students from the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) with local hospitals to complete their third-and-fourth year clinical training, equipping students to care for their neighbors and opening the door for young doctors to serve our community for years to come.

“In its first year, the Homegrown Health Care Initiative already is strengthening our region’s health care system and building the pipeline of doctors entering our community – with incredible potential to deliver results for Pennsylvania patients both today and for years to come. As a doctor who returned home to Blair County to practice medicine and serve my neighbors, I understand firsthand the importance of building a strong ‘homegrown’ medical community,” said Dr. Joyce. “Today’s kick off event at the James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center is an exciting milestone in our partnership’s ongoing commitment to strengthen our veterans’ access to quality health care and mental health care here in our community. I am grateful to Medical Center Director Sigrid Andrew, Medical Center Chief of Staff Dr. R. Samuel Magee, and their team for their partnership in making the Homegrown Health Care Initiative a reality, and I look forward to continuing our work to serve Pennsylvania veterans.”

The James E. Van Zandt VAMC is one of three local hospitals that are participating in this inaugural academic year of the Homegrown Health Care Initiative. It offers the largest mental health services in our region. Currently, three students are actively enrolled at the campus, with potential to expand in coming years. The new dormitory facility has the capacity to house up to 13 students simultaneously.  

“As the largest federal entity within the region, we have an obligation to help support this community,” said James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center Director Sigrid Andrew. “Having these students learn next to VA professionals who consistently perform above the national health care standards, and introducing these students to this beautiful region, will undoubtedly payoff for our Veterans, community, and the future of healthcare.”

About the Homegrown Health Care Initiative:

Beginning in summer 2020, students from the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) were placed in three hubs across the 13th District of Pennsylvania to complete their clinical studies at a new “LECOM southwestern and southcentral PA campus.” For the 2020-21 cycle, nine students have been placed among Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center (Cambria), Fulton County Medical Center (Fulton), and the James E. Van Zandt VAMC (Blair). Each year, Dr. Joyce hopes to expand the number of both students and medical centers participating in the Homegrown Health Care Initiative. 

By utilizing the expertise of incredible clinicians in these medical facilities and the teaching tools of LECOM, the next generation of doctors can choose to study here in southcentral and southwestern Pennsylvania. These future physicians will have the advantage of learning and living in a community that they can call home, answering the pressing problem of the shortage a primary care physicians in our district. 

As a physician who returned home to practice medicine in the community where he was raised, Dr. Joyce understands firsthand the many benefits of a “homegrown” pipeline of health care providers. By connecting bright medical students with medical centers here in southcentral and southwestern Pennsylvania, the Homegrown Health Care Initiative will equip students to serve their neighbors and bolster our local health care system – all at no cost to the taxpayer. With the objective of addressing the physician shortage, this program has the potential to achieve both immediate and long-term results for Pennsylvanians.


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