Rochon celebrates ties to local VA hospital, outlines future relationship


TUSKEGEE, Ala. (February 12, 2013) – Nearly 100 years ago, Tuskegee University’s second president, Robert Russa Moton, helped change the face of local health care options when he donated 300 acres for the creation of a hospital that would serve black veterans. Today, Tuskegee University helped the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Tuskegee Veterans Affairs Medical Center and highlight the unity between the hospital and the university.

Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon.
Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon was the keynote speaker for a celebration program in the facility’s Building 90 Theater. The event also featured performances from the Tuskegee University Wind Ensemble and Female Glee Club.

In his presentation, Rochon gave a history of black soldiers in American warfare and the battles they faced abroad and at home. He said black soldiers have fought in every American war, but prevailing racism and health care inequalities have often proved more deadly than their enemies.

“There were 33,000 black soldiers who died during the Civil War. Of those, only 4,000 were deaths in combat. The rest were the result of a variety of infectious diseases.” Rochon said. “Because the quality of health care during the Civil War, particularly for black soldiers, was less than admirable.”

Rochon went on to detail the early days of the medical center’s 1923 establishment in the City of Tuskegee and the possibility of expanding the facility’s relationship with the university in the future. Using the link between Boston University’s School of Medicine and the VA Boston Health Care System in Massachusetts as an example, he said several opportunities for partnership exist including possible internships for students, faculty training, education for VA employees, and joint research projects.

“We could partner with the VA on third party major initiatives that would provide a source of funding to support research,” Rochon said. “It’s a win-win all around and the sustainable economic development of the City of Tuskegee, Macon County and this entire region.”

The audience listens as Rochon gives history of black soldiers in American warfare.

From left: Charles E. Sepich, network director for Veterans Integrated Service Network 7; William C. Shoenhard, deputy undersecretary for health operations and management for the Veterans Health Administration; Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon, and James R. Talton, director of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System. After the program, the hospital honored Rochon with the Dr. Troussaint T. Tildon Memorial Award for Outstanding Service.

© 2013 Tuskegee University

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