When Dr. Elizabeth Yano began her training in epidemiology, biostatistics and health policy, the idea that she might use her UCLA Fielding School of Public Health (FSPH) education to spearhead a transformation in how the nation’s largest integrated health system provides care for its female patients was the furthest thing from her mind.
But after Dr. Yano arrived at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLAHS) in 1989 for what was intended to be a short stint — to help evaluate the VA’s first primary care demonstration project — she discovered that the Veterans Health Administration, which serves more than 9 million veterans through care provided at more than 1,200 facilities across the country, was an institution with a great interest in using research to implement policy changes. “Once I saw the kind of impact I could have, I never left,” Dr. Yano says.
For much of the last two decades, Dr. Yano, an adjunct professor in FSPH’s department of health policy and management, has led a research enterprise that has sought to identify and address gaps in knowledge about women veterans’ health and health care needs in ways that improve the quality of care they receive, as well as their satisfaction with the patient experience in the VA system.
When Dr. Yano got started, women represented barely more than 2 percent of the VA user population and their health needs were vastly understudied, she says. But the population of women veterans has grown rapidly: Today women account for nearly 10 percent of the total veteran population, and represent approximately 20 percent of new recruits. For the VA, this has added to the urgency of meeting gender-specific care needs, many of which have been elucidated by the work Dr. Yano has led.