Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VAMC
PhotoVoice Gallery Exhibit Open
Gala True, PhD, a researcher at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, recently completed a $90,000 VA-funded research project to study Veterans returning from deployments in support of Operations Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and the complex challenges they face in making the transition to post-deployment life. The goals of this innovative participatory research project were to: empower individuals to convey their experiences, perspectives, and needs through visual images and first person narratives; increase health communication self-efficacy; decrease social anxiety for Veteran participants; and to positively impact attitudes and knowledge of VA leadership, providers, and staff as it relates to the experiences and needs of OEF/OIF Veterans.
Overall, there were forty OEF/OIF Veterans from the Philadelphia area representing all the branches of service who were recruited for the study. 29 of those (7 women, 22 men) from contributed a total of 900 photographs, participated in interviews, and told their stories about their deployments, their military service, and returning home.
The participating Veterans were given cameras and asked to photograph their daily lives and contribute photos from their personal collections to focus on: 1) How a deployment impacts the Veterans’ physical, social, and emotional health? 2) What challenges Veterans face in making the transition home? 3) What barriers the Veterans face in seeking care after a deployment? and 4) Where did the Veterans find strength and support to move forward?
Selected photos and stories were then curated as a special exhibit in the Philadelphia VA Medical Center Gallery of Honored Memories. The number of visitors to the gallery has tripled since the exhibit opened on November 13.
A special Veterans Day event was held where approximately 200 Veterans, medical center staff and volunteers attended a panel discussion led by four OEF/OIF Veterans whose work is featured in the exhibit.
Additional funding is being sought in order to allow this special exhibit to tour other VA facilities.