Advancing Veterans’ Health Care
Dittmar Endowment Honors Fathers’ Military Service
By Salwa Choucair
When she enters the Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital to work with nursing students in partnership with The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Assistant Professor Vicky Dittmar, M.S.N., Class of 2001, feels like she’s at home. This sense of home stems back to her childhood—specifically, her father’s military career. It also is the main reason she and husband Dale Dittmar chose to establish a nursing endowment to benefit students who share their desire to help military veterans.
“I’ve been working at the VA for four years, and it’s been very rewarding for me,” says Vicky, clinical faculty coordinator for the School of Nursing’s Dedicated Education Unit (a model of clinical teaching) in partnership with the VA. “Whenever I walk in the doors at Audie Murphy, I feel like I’m at home. Part of it is because many of the veterans we are now serving are Vietnam vets who have chronic health issues. They are quite familiar to me because of my father’s experiences.”
Vicky’s father, John Sweeney, was a Green Beret in the Army, served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, and continued his career in the military. Dale’s father, Douglas Dittmar, served in the Army during World War II but did not see combat. Both men taught their children the importance of serving their country and being patriotic.
The Dale and Victoria Dittmar Nursing Endowment was established in 2015 to honor their fathers’ memories and their service and to further the advancement of health care for all veterans. “Dale and I have always been really passionate about veterans’ health care issues and service to our country,” says Vicky who has been a nurse for 30 years. “My father had some traumatic experiences while serving, and although he was never diagnosed, he suffered quite a bit from post-traumatic stress. With the ongoing growing war on terrorism and working at the VA with my clinical students, the ability to recognize issues relating to PTSD and brain injuries is something that is very important to Dale and me.”
Furthermore, their youngest son, Brandon, 26, is currently serving in the Air Force and on his first deployment. Their other son, Andrew, 29, lives and works in Houston. Both boys received scholarships which helped pay for their college educations leaving the Dittmars with the financial means to give back some of their good fortune. “We have been blessed,” Vicky says. “We didn’t need the money for our own children’s education, so why not turn around and make it easier for someone else, particularly nursing students. It was a pretty easy decision to make.”
As the first recipient of the endowment and part of a military family herself, Adelaide Emery, M.S.N., B.S.N., is grateful to the Dittmars and also is concerned about veterans’ health care. She earned her M.S.N. in 2013 and her B.S.N. in 2004 from the School of Nursing.
“My brother and grandfather were in the Army and my father was in the Air Force,” says Emery, who currently is the operating room manager at Methodist Texsan Hospital. “I want to make sure that anyone who fought for our freedom receives good health care.”
Emery completed the School of Nursing’s post master’s family nurse practitioner program in August 2016.
Ultimately, the benefactors of the Dittmars’ generosity will be the veterans who are treated by the well-trained nurses from the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, such as Emery; and Vicky will continue to mentor and inspire them to do so.