University of Iowa, VA maintain strong ties in psychiatric services

By Francie Williamson, Communications Coordinator, Department of Psychiatry

For the past 30 years, Cathy Woodman, MD, has been an integral part of the collaboration between the Iowa City VA Hospital and Department of Psychiatry at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

And though the two haven’t always had a tight relationship, Woodman says the partnership is currently very strong.

“I think that from a research and training standpoint, the university values that relationship and we value it with them,” Woodman says.

Peg Nopoulos, MD, chair of the Department of Psychiatry, says Woodman has been an incredibly steady leader.

 “A relationship between the VA and our hospital is in everyone’s best interest and I think she’s done a great job of fostering those collaborations,” Nopoulos says.

Long-term ties to VA

Woodman came to Iowa City in 1990 from University of California-San Francisco, after her husband, Joel Kline, received a fellowship at UI Hospitals & Clinics in pulmonary critical care.

“When we came here, we didn’t think this would be a long-term placement for us,” Woodman says. But they decided Iowa City would be a good place to raise their family, and they stayed. Woodman took a job with the VA, while Kline started working for the Department of Internal Medicine at UI Hospitals & Clinics.

Cathy Woodman, MD

Woodman has long-term ties to the VA. She worked for the VA in Providence, R.I., while she was in medical school at Brown University, and did rotations at the VAs in San Francisco and Fresno, Calif., during residency.

While Woodman primarily works at the VA as the chief of mental health, she also is an associate professor of psychiatry and an associate professor of family medicine at UI. She has been on the institutional review board for more than 25 years, spent about 15 years as training director for the psychiatry residency program and before that was associate training director. During that period, she spent over half of her time at the university and thought about leaving the VA, but realized she would really miss her clinical time there as well as the patient population the VA serves.

Many of the psychiatric services that the VA offers are the same as those found at the university, but there are some differences. Woodman says the VA sees many more patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma-based disorders, and substance abuse disorders. The university, meanwhile, has interventional psychiatry services such as IV ketamine and transcranial magnetic stimulation, which the VA does not offer.

The patient mix is also different. Woodman says they increasingly are seeing women at the VA, but it traditionally has been more male.

“I’d say in our younger population it’s about 25 to 30 percent female, but the Vietnam veterans still really represent the bulk of our numbers and those are predominantly male, like 95 percent male,” Woodman says.

Many of the VA patients also see a psychiatry provider in the community, then come to the VA for a prescription since medication is one of their VA benefits.

Collaboration between VA and UI

Every psychiatrist working at the VA has at least an adjunct appointment at UI, Woodman says.

“We’ve always had joint projects,” Woodman says. “I meet with the chair on a regular basis. In fact, when I was a first-year faculty, she was a third-year resident.”

VA research funding benefits both institutions. Even though it’s a mid-sized institution, the Iowa City VA has one of the top 10 best funded research programs in the country, Woodman says.

“At the university we have funding for mostly lab research,” Woodman says. “We have somebody who has a mouse model of anxiety and trauma, who is funded through the VA, and we had someone who was [researching] drug development for central nervous system disorders like Parkinson’s.”

The VA also funds rural health initiatives looking at innovative delivery of care.

“The VA has been kind of on the forefront of doing televideo to patients and televideo into patients’ homes, which during the pandemic has proven to be quite beneficial,” Woodman says. “Our clinic residents had experience doing that which they could take with them to the university and they could take with them in their future endeavors.”

Woodman says the relationship between VA and UI is a win-win situation for both.

“They have access to a training site, which I think is helpful to them for medical student training and resident training,” Woodman says of the university. Meanwhile, the VA has “proximity to world class researchers, and thinkers in the field.”

Although the relationship between VA and UI has fluctuated over the years, Woodman says it was strong when she arrived, and it is strong today.

“Everybody is affiliated with the university still and we’re interested in what’s going on at the university,” Woodman says.

Monday, October 26, 2020