Growing up in Casey, Iowa – a tiny town of about 400 people in southwest Iowa – Mandy Conrad saw firsthand what a lack of mental health services looks like.
Conrad, who is a University of Iowa College of Education doctoral student in Counseling Psychology, serves rural veterans through her clinical work.
Conrad comes from generations of family members who served our country. Her grandfather was a World War II veteran and her father served in the Army National Guard.
“I have a great deal of respect for veterans, and recognize that military service can result in veteran-specific health care needs,” she says.
Some examples of these specific health care needs may include, but are not limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, and exposure to hazards. Conrad says If one combines veteran-specific health care needs with rural-specific needs, it is evident that creating accessibility for a population that may be experiencing multi-layered barriers to services is incredibly important.
Last year, Conrad also provided neuropsychological services to veterans at a community-based outpatient clinic. Currently, Conrad provides telephone-based cognitive behavioral therapy research interventions to rural veterans undergoing surgery who may be at risk for developing chronic post-surgical pain through the Office of Rural Health. She does this under the supervision of Katie Hadlandsmyth, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry in the University of Iowa College of Medicine. Hadlandsmyth developed this study with aims of piloting non-pharmacological pain reduction strategies to prevent prolonged pain and opioid use.
Conrad says her clinical, research, and advocacy interests will continue to be geared toward serving rural and underserved populations that experience barriers in accessing resources. Conrad is currently applying to internship sites that focus primarily on service to veterans or that emphasize accessibility.
“I am an advocate for integrated care, and I hope to work within a setting that promotes biopsychosocial approaches to treatment,” she says.
Conrad’s professional emphasis is ensuring that rural populations have a voice in the shaping of public policy.
Conrad says Veteran Affairs systems are making incredible advances in their coordinated care for veterans and are consistently striving to reduce barriers. Transportation, lodging, access to technology, coordinated points of entry for behavioral/mental/primary health care – to name just a few - are emphasized in the service provision to veterans.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my work within the Iowa City VA Health Care System and with veterans,” She says.