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Ears to the veterans

CMU plays a role in bringing audio screenings to those who served


​Roy Lewis remembers how loud those convoy ships could get during World War II — horrible days when he was "scared all the time."

The Coast Guard veteran from Alanson, Michigan, 94, recalled something else, too: No ear protection for anyone.

There also were no ear plugs around when Phillip Pepper of Millersburg, Michigan, now 70, was a heavy-equipment man in the Marine Corps.

That's why a recent trip up north by Central Michigan University's Mobile Health Central — providing hearing checks — was a godsend for the two men.

And they didn't have to drive far, either. That's because the mobile clinic came to them.

The 39-foot motor coach has traveled to Indian River, Michigan — a community about 30 miles south of Mackinaw City — three times this year. More than 130 Michigan veterans have been screened.

Recognizing a need

All of them are from the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, where urban areas are few and Veterans Affairs facilities are far apart. For many people, entire days are built around visits to brick-and-mortar clinics.

Those circumstances aren't lost on the Veterans Evaluation Services, a veteran-owned and operated business based in Houston, Texas. It keeps on top of veterans' health needs and works with the VA.

Latessha Arnold, a VES provider-recruiter, said the VA had a backlog of 120 northern Michigan veterans who needed hearing checks. Arnold said she began reaching out to Michigan doctors and anyone else she could find on the internet.

She didn't have much luck.

"We contacted every single doctor we could find," Arnold said. "Everyone was busy, didn't want to work with us or had limited availability."

And then she found out about CMU's mobile clinic. Tracy Speier, outreach coordinator for community partnerships and services for CMU's Herbert H. & Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions, got things moving — literally.

Happy veterans

A trial run took place April 28-May 1 at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7439 in Indian River.

Forty-seven people showed up. Another 42 came to a second series of screenings in late June, and a third mobile clinic visit during the first week of August erased the backlog.

A fourth trip is set for Aug. 17-18, with about 35 veterans expected to be seen.

Any screenings pointing to serious problems are referred to VA, Speier said.

VES organizes the visits and rents the mobile clinic and VFW space. Upper Peninsula doctors provide the screenings, and Speier is there to represent CMU. The university also supplies the driver.

"It's really moving to have veterans come in and be so thankful," Speier said. "We've had veterans who have started to cry because they are so thrilled that someone's actually coming to them."

"It was very professional, not intimidating," Pepper said of his experience with the mobile clinic. "I was treated with respect."

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