TTUHSC Veteran-to-Veteran Mentorship Program | Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
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Now What?

Veterans Serve as Mentors to Aid in Civilian Transition

Carmen Stein, PhD, LPC, looked around and thought, “Now what?”  At 17, Stein went into the military under the buddy system and was now a civilian at a career crossroads in Junction City, Kansas, following an honorable discharge. “I lived across the street from a hospital so I walked in and asked if they had any jobs I could do or anything I could learn to do.” Her background didn’t’ qualify her to be a respiratory therapist, which was the only job available in the hospital. “I didn’t even know what it was, I just needed a job!”  Stein successfully completed training the hospital offered and became a respiratory therapist — and now had a purpose.

Today, Stein, is an assistant professor in the School of Health Professions Department of Mental Health and Clinical Counseling. “I was very lucky in how my life turned out when I left the military,” she said. “Many veterans aren’t as lucky. They don’t know where to go or how to restart their lives.” Stein volunteers as a mentor in the new Veteran-to-Veteran Mentorship Program offered by the TTUHSC Veterans Resource Center, where she helps veterans utilize efficient resources to achieve their career goals.

Cshala Davis left the military in 2005 to be a stay-at-home mom while her husband re-enlisted. However, when he retired, she decided to go back to school with a desire to help veterans with mental health illness. Her Veterans Affairs counselor suggested she consider TTUHSC’s Clinical Counseling and Mental Health Program. After an advisor meeting with Stein, Davis enrolled in the program and signed on to have Stein as her mentor. “I didn’t know how to get my career started or how the process worked so I’m grateful to Dr. Stein for helping me navigate the academic system and encouraging me to pursue my doctorate — she saved me a lot of time and headache.”

Rachel Washburn, a PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, has always been interested in two things: military service and science. After serving as an officer in the Air Force for four years in active duty and four years in Reserves, exposure to harmful chemicals caused her to develop thyroid cancer.  “When I separated from the military, I faced this period of rediscovery,” Washburn said. “I had cancer and no longer had the career I had worked forever for. I didn’t know what to do.” While undergoing cancer treatment and a year of trying to find a diagnosis for an underlying autoimmune disorder, she rekindled her love for science.

“I needed to be able to read, understand and translate medical journals if I was going to be my own health care advocate,” she added. Without a mentor, Washburn spent time in trial and error to develop her course trajectory to achieve her goals. Now that she knows the ropes, she signed up as a veteran mentor in the program.

“I just want to be able to help someone else navigate the processes necessary to get the specific education they need to build a civilian career,” she added.