By Wendy Sarubbi | October 9, 2013 10:53 am

A group of UCF College of Medicine students are teaming up to recognize the needs of local veterans, and their efforts have been rewarded with a $450 grant from the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).

Student AAMC representatives are working with the M.D. student Military Medicine Interest Group to hold an event during November’s National Joining Forces Wellness Week to focus on mental health issues faced by combat veterans once they return from military service.

“Our goal is to raise awareness of the health concerns of military service members and veterans,” said Jennifer Bazemore, a fourth-year medical student and AAMC student representative.

The event, which is still being planned, is expected to feature a panel discussion where local veterans, VA Physicians and medical students will share information on mental health issues, including the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with personal accounts from patients who have experienced it.

The “Joining Forces” grant from the AAMC will allow the students to provide a catered lunch for all participants, and give veterans a gift: a hand-made flag lapel pin from “The Veterans Site” store, a company that funds meals for homeless and hungry veterans.

Fourth-year student and AAMC representative Omar Shakeel, who is also assisting with the event, says his efforts are based on gratitude for the service and sacrifices military vets make.  “I’ve always appreciated veterans, and I think it’s a huge honor to hold a week for them, and recognize what they’ve done for our country,” he said.

During the event, organizers hope to promote “Orlando Veterans Stand Down,” an annual program in the spring that supports veterans who are homeless or in need. “We’re hoping to encourage participation in that event,” Omar said. “It will address issues like food, clothing, employment opportunities, and also help some low-income veterans.”

Dr. Marcy Verduin, associate dean for students, applauded the students’ effort. A psychiatrist by training, Dr. Verduin works at the Orlando VA Medical Center and specializes in addictions and other mental health issues veterans face. “I am thrilled the students are dedicating themselves to raising awareness of the health issues our veterans frequently battle,” she said.

Finalized details of the veterans event will be posted on the “Events” section of the College of Medicine website,

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