The Vets First podcast is a research-based podcast that focuses on the VA healthcare system and its patients. Instead of being just another research podcast, the Vets First podcast was created with a primary focus on the Veterans and their stories. The hosts, Levi Sowers PhD, and Brandon Rea work to bridge the gap between the state-of-the-art research being performed at Veterans Affairs and the Veterans themselves in an easy-to-understand manner. Importantly, Levi and Brandon want to assist researchers around the country to better understand the needs of Veterans. In this podcast you will hear interviews from Veterans with specific conditions and then hear from VA funded researchers who are studying those very topics as well as other highlighted services the VA provides.
The Department of Veterans Affairs does not endorse or officially sanction any entities that may be discussed in this podcast, nor any media, products or services they may provide.
Season one in the books!
In this wrap up episode, Levi and Brandon look back on the season and discuss what surprised them about starting a podcast, some of the difficulties experienced as novice podcasters, and some of the striking takeaways from the interviews. They also preview what will be discussed next season. We look forward to everyone listening in!
A leader in kidney disease and transplant: Dr. Christie Thomas.
Dr. Christie Thomas, a nephrologist at the University of Iowa and the Iowa City VA Healthcare System, joins us on this episode to discuss his favorite organ, the kidney, and why Veterans need transplants. He is a pioneer in the kidney transplant program at the Iowa City VA Healthcare System as well as a being influential in the Hepatitis C positive kidney transplant program. Today Dr. Thomas discusses with us the role of the kidney in the body, some of its surprising roles in human health, as well as how and why kidneys fail.
Dr. Thomas was born and grew up in India, having come to the United States at the age of 2 and returning to India at the age of 4. He did his undergraduate studies in India and postgraduate studies in England. He returned to the United States in his early thirties and was drawn to Iowa City, which had the largest public hospital in terms of the number of beds in the country at the time, as well as the Iowa City VA Healthcare System, which was known for the strength of its research.
Extraordinary circumstances: Son donates kidney to father and Jack Jones receives the first Hepatitis C positive kidney
In this episode we first hear from Vince and David, a father and son two days before their kidney transplant surgery. David is donating his kidney to his father Vince, an Air Force Veteran of 8 years. Vince was born in Michigan, moved to California, New Mexico, and then Alaska in 1978. He joined the Air Force in 1955 and served until 1963. Also in this interview we hear from their two caregivers, Darlene and Jennifer, and get their perspective on the upcoming surgery. The group made the trip down from Alaska to the Iowa City VA Healthcare System for this life-changing event.
In the second half of the episode, we hear from Veteran Jack Jones and his wife Martha from North Carolina. Jack grew up in New Bern and served in the Navy as a boiler operator from 1975 to 1979. Jack received the first Hepatitis C positive kidney through a pioneering new program at the Iowa City VA Healthcare System, where medical advances have made Hepatitis C positive kidneys viable for transplant into patients without developing the disease. He shares with us his military experiences, his developing need for a kidney transplant due to diabetes, and his care at the Iowa City VA Healthcare System.
When our blood filtration system goes bad: two Veteran viewpoints on kidney disease
Our first guest is Alysha Scott and she is the care giver for a Veteran named Jan Scott. Alysha and Jan are from Kokomo, Indiana and have come to Iowa City to be a part of the collaborate kidney transplant program between the University of Iowa and the Iowa City VA Healthcare System. Jan served 4 years in Louisiana during the Vietnam War and was a firefighter for the city of Kokomo for 20 years. Experiencing renal failure, Jan was on dialysis 3 times a week for 4 years and on the transplant list for 2 years before receiving his kidney. Alysha discusses what it is like to have a significant other with end stage kidney disease and their experiences as a post-operation kidney transplant patient continuing to receive care through the Iowa City VA Healthcare System.
Our second guest is Rob Siwek, a high school baseball coach from Mansfield, Ohio. Rob is a post-operation kidney and pancreas transplant patient who received his kidney, pancreas, and continuing care through the Iowa City VA Healthcare System. He served in the Army from 1987 to 1989 in Fort Jackson, South Carolina and was diagnosed with diabetes during his service. He discusses his many first-hand experiences involving kidney disease, dialysis, his surgery, and how grateful he is for organ donation.
Out of the dark and into the light: Life after successful treatment of post-traumatic headache
In this episode, we hear from an anonymous Veteran about her struggle with light sensitivity and headache after a traumatic brain injury during Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq. She describes how she suffered daily headaches from 2013 until her first dose of a new anti-migraine drug in December 2018 which changed her life. During that period from 2013-2018, she experienced excruciating light-sensitivity that she had to wear sunglasses even indoors. Additionally, she experienced constant debilitating pain that significantly impacted her life. She recounts that after her first dose of this new anti-migraine drug, she sat on her bed in amazement as it was the first headache free period of time in 6 years. She goes on to tell us how this treatment has impacted her life.
We also hear from an expert in the field of migraine and post-traumatic headache, Dr. Andrew Russo. Dr. Russo is a professor of physiology at the University of Iowa and director of animal research at the Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Visual Loss. He shares how he became interested in research, how he perceives migraine to work, and the role of a peptide in migraine known as CGRP. Finally, Dr. Russo highlights what research at the VA means to him.
An introduction to the Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Visual Loss and an interview with its director Dr. Randy Kardon
As one of the three pillars of the VA, research plays a critical role in the treatment of Veterans. This episode starts with a description of research at the VA. Levi and Brandon discuss different achievements that have been accomplished through VA funded research.
We also hear from Dr. Randy Kardon, director of the Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Visual Loss. The Center is one of 14 centers nationwide that are funded by Rehabilitation, Research and Development. Additionally, the Center focuses on a multitude of visual disorders that affect Veterans ranging from glaucoma to light sensitivity after traumatic brain injury as well as migraine.
Dr. Kardon grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and has over 30 years of experience as an ophthalmologist at the Iowa City VA Healthcare System, specializing in neuro ophthalmology. He came to the University of Iowa as a freshman in 1972 and was part of the first sponsored Medical Scientist Training Program at the university. Dr. Kardon shares with us his expertise, health issues he focuses on, and how he provides specialized care. Finally, we discuss the goals of the center and how the center hopes to aid Veterans through its research.
Customer ReviewsSee All
An indepth and personal approach to VA related research. It is interesting to hear from Veterans, what problems they face, and then hear from a specialist or reasearcher attempting to fix those problems. It is done in a way that I can understand and I got to learn about the researchers themselves!
Very well produced. I love that this is a podcast from the researchers in the trenches learning about how to improve my life as a veteran. My favorite is hearing them interview the veterans that are directly affected by the treatments themselves. It has to help how the researchers think about TBI, Hepatitis, etc. Very interesting podcast and I am excited for the 2nd season!
First Episode !
I loved hearing from the veteran with a tbi. I also suffered a tbi during my time in the service. It’s good to know there are other veterans experiencing similar long term effects of tbi.