Chief of VA emergency department shares work-life balance

Walk-in clinical care in Lake Nona open for veterans

LAKE NONA, Fla. – The first chief of the emergency department at the Orlando VA Medical Center shares her work-life balance after the birth of her daughter. 

When Dr. Veronica Sikka began her career in Central Florida, the first emergency department at the Orlando VA was still a construction zone.

"We opened up our emergency department on Sept. 12, right after Hurricane Irma," Sikka said. "It's something that I've seen from the ground up. I have pictures of us in hard hats and closed-toed shoes walking through the emergency department, and just making sure faucets and plugs are working and today we have an ER that's seeing over 37,000 veterans a year."

Fifty-seven nurses, 12 physicians and seven physician assistants make up the emergency department at the state-of-the-art facility in Lake Nona. According to Sikka, every provider is extensively experienced in emergency medicine.

Sikka helped open the emergency department at the same time her family was welcoming her first child into the world.

"I came back after six weeks. Everybody thought that was probably the worst decision ever, but we were activating an emergency department," Sikka said.

She credits her husband, a gastroenterologist in the Orlando area, and her parents for supporting her decision to return to work. Sikka also teaches medical students as an associate professor of emergency medicine at UCF School of Medicine.

Her passion to help veterans started long before the historic opening at the Orlando VA. She said she called a military recruiter in high school to come to her house.

"He came and he was telling me of all the great educational benefits, and financial, and then he said, 'Well you know, you could get deployed at any time now,' and I quickly realized what a coward I was," Sikka said.

That conversation did not defeat her, she said she was more motivated then to attend medical school and save the lives of the people who have the courage to enlist. 

Sikka has hopes that her daughter's ambitions will surpass her own.

"I hope Raveena, my daughter, will look back and realize that you can do it all, and you can do it all well," Sikka said.

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