When Dr. Karen Sanders, Acting Chief Academic Affiliations Officer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, gives advice to residents and interns on having a career in VA, she doesn’t just talk about one career opportunity. Instead, she talks about career paths.
“That is the amazing thing about VA,” said Dr. Sanders. “You’ll find many career paths waiting for you in VA – many possibilities depending on your interests and goals. Look at my career as an example!”
Dr. Sanders began her career as an intern at the Providence VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Rhode Island. After finishing her residency, Dr. Sanders joined the staff of the Providence VAMC. “It turned out that I loved working at VA and I loved working with Veterans,” said Sanders. “And I have stayed with VA ever since.”
One of the things that appealed to Dr. Sanders was the variety of VA career opportunities. Having started out as a pure clinician in Internal Medicine, she went back to training for a fellowship in Rheumatology, and unexpectedly ended up working as a lab researcher studying macrophage adherence. Her path took her into administration, eventually becoming the Chief of Rheumatology and later the Acting Chief of Staff at the Richmond VAMC in Virginia.
However, Dr. Sanders’ true calling in VA was just around the corner. While performing her duties as the Site Director for the Rheumatology fellowship, she discovered her love for teaching and training young people. “I found I really enjoyed educational administration,” said Dr. Sanders.
Today, Dr. Sanders is the Acting Chief of the Office of Academic Affiliations for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, where she oversees the largest health professions education program in the United States, including nearly 120,000 trainees annually in more than 40 different health professions.
Dr. Sanders continues to mentor trainees personally and is a key advocate of the “Take a Closer Look” program, a collaboration between the Office of Academic Affiliations and the recruiting arm of the Workforce Management and Consulting Office. The purpose of “Take a Closer Look” is to build awareness of career opportunities among current VA interns and residents.
“Many of us saw the need for a very particular campaign to recruit trainees at the national level,” said Dr. Sanders. “We believe that the trainees are the future workforce of VA.”
When giving advice to an intern or resident considering a career in VA, Dr. Sanders draws upon her personal philosophy, which made her a successful health care professional, senior staff officer and mentor.
“VA has an academic culture with many different career opportunities – teaching, research, patient care, administration,” Dr. Sanders said. “You can create a career that matches your interest in VA.”
About Dr. Sanders
Karen M. Sanders, M.D. is the Acting Chief Academic Affiliations Officer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, in Washington D.C., where she oversees the largest health professions education program in the United States, including nearly 120,000 trainees annually in more than 40 different health professions.
Dr. Sanders has over 30 years of experience in health professions education and health care administration. She functions as the Chief Operating Officer for the Office of Academic Affiliations and operationalizes strategic plans and goals as well as overseeing day-to-day operations. She also plays other key roles in the Veterans Health Administration, especially as a subject matter expert on Mandatory Training.