“If it’s this difficult for someone with my background to navigate the Veterans Administration system …”
Christine Pokryfky, currently working her way toward a legal degree in Ohio, doesn’t really need to finish the sentence. Upon her 2011 graduation from the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Pokryfky commissioned from the Hopkins ROTC Battalion and served on active duty as an Army Nurse Corps officer caring for soldiers, veterans, and their family members in military treatment facilities. After leaving the Army, she joined the Cleveland Clinic as a board-certified case manager in its neuro ICU. Seeing patients struggle within the VA system was what motivated her to become a nurse attorney so she could better advocate for them.
Pokryfky comes from a long line of military service, and is the granddaughter of the late Petty Officer Don Engeman, who served in the Korean War and acted as her first salute when she was sworn in as a second lieutenant. She recalls, “he was instrumental in my decision to serve. I used to sit in his office and listen to all his Navy stories growing up.” Watching her former patients, her former soldiers, and her own family members navigate the VA system was what pulled her in the direction of a career in health law. “It’s hard to watch people you care about struggle to get the care they need.”
She hopes her advocacy will be a force multiplier for other veterans. As she waits to begin fully practicing law, Pokryfky, who has been a registered nurse for 11 years, does all she can to help her friends and family manage their own care in the meantime. “A lot of people reach out for help, and I do my best to use what I know to assist. I put my all into helping people.” Recently, her aunt (who was a Marine stationed at Camp LeJeune in the ’80s) was diagnosed with metastatic cancer that, due in part to the medical care that Pokryfky helped coordinate for her, was found to be service connected.
Pokryfky is passionate about devoting her pro bono work to helping other veterans once she is fully licensed. “I’m grateful for any opportunity to help such a selfless patient population.”
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