Dr. Michael Jessee Adkins currently teaches Graduate Veterans Health certificate courses as an adjunct instructor for the Department of Interdisciplinary Health Studies. The Graduate Veterans Health certificate provides students and/or post-professional health and healthcare workers with a background in advanced and specific knowledge for work with veterans in health and healthcare settings. The topics will include: United States military history and culture as it pertains to the individuals’ health, the veteran’s affairs system and common and current medical conditions associated with the military service. The certificate is for those who are working, or intend to work with veterans, to provide greater insight and perspective of this special population to become leaders in healthcare delivery to our U.S. veterans. Dr. Adkins is also a student services administrator in the thesis and dissertation services office at the graduate college.
What are your contributions to IHS, in terms of programmatic, courses, and overall expertise?
I developed and currently teach a graduate course called Veterans Affairs System: Healthcare Perspectives (IHS-5402) where students learn about the mission, organizational structure, history and evolution of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Emphasis is placed on healthcare services for veterans and students learn how to navigate through complex bureaucracies to deliver tangible benefits to veterans. I’ve also taught a course called Diseases and Conditions in Veterans: Prevalence, Diagnosis, and Treatment (IHS-5401) and have served as an online course facilitator for Introduction to Global Health (IHS-2210), Critical Thinking and Reasoning in Clinical Problem Solving (IHS-4447), and Spirituality in Healthcare (IHS-3010).
How does your past or current professional life impact the way you teach IHS courses, and vice versa?
I’m a seasoned veteran with experience serving under fire in Iraq. I know what it’s like to be in challenging situations that require multi-layered decision-making and this has shaped my approach to teaching. For example, in my courses, I often ask students to develop their own ideas for how to solve complex problems and I encourage students to look at situations from multiple angles. After I completed my military service, I worked as a veterans service representative for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs where I processes thousands of claims for medical disability compensation and I also completed a doctoral dissertation examining the ways veterans experienced college campuses in Appalachia. I’ve also worked as a manuscript reviewer for the Journal of Veterans Studies and I’ve been volunteering as a mentor for the Athens County Veterans Court. This combination of experiences allow me to bring a unique, multidisciplinary and experiential perspective to the classroom. Conversely, teaching the IHS courses has allowed me to grow professionally, pursue my interests and establish connections with colleagues throughout the university and local community.
What activities do you enjoy outside of work?
It depends on the weather. On rainy days, I can be found playing with plastic dinosaurs on the wooden floor of my Athens home with my son. He’s almost three years old and we get into all sorts of adventures. When the weather is nice, I love to go hiking, camping, and fishing. I can often be found hiking along the ridges or walking on the bike path in Athens with my dog (Luna). I also enjoy traveling abroad and gained unique experiences while living in Mexico, visiting Costa Rica, vacationing in Qatar and serving in Iraq.
What are some words of wisdom you would like to share with the students?
“Improvise, adapt, and overcome.”
This phrase was often spoken during my era of military service because it expressed the spirit of resilience needed to thrive in spite of challenging circumstances. I encourage students to improvise, adapt and overcome the many challenges they will face when pursuing their educational goals. A resilient attitude can complement a student’s academic aptitude.