February 11, 2021

Dr. David Oslin named recipient of the 2020 VA Barnwell Award

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Dr. David W. Oslin is director of the VISN 4 Mental Illness, Research, Education, and Clinical Center at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center in Philadelphia. (Photo by John Bowser)

Dr. David W. Oslin is director of the VISN 4 Mental Illness, Research, Education, and Clinical Center at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center in Philadelphia. (Photo by John Bowser)

Dr. David W. Oslin has been awarded the 2020 John B. Barnwell Award. The award is VA Clinical Science Research and Development’s (CSR&D) highest honor for outstanding achievement in clinical science research. It is given for scientific contributions that change clinical practice for Veterans.

“Dr. Oslin is among the top ten clinical investigators both within and outside of VA nationally. He is a major asset for the VA and the Veterans we serve,” said Dr. Rachel Ramoni, VA Chief Research and Development Officer.

Dr. Oslin is the director of the VISN 4 Mental Illness, Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC), and chief of behavioral health at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center in Philadelphia.  In addition he is a core investigator at the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP) and a professor of psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

His research has focused on two main areas: the development and implementation of measurement-based care practices and the application of genetics to clinical care in order to bring precision mental health care to Veterans and others.

Oslin was a leader in integrating mental health care into primary care clinics. His work was key in the development of an integrated clinical program that has been used throughout VA and other health care systems. In 2015, the program received the Bronze Award for Health Innovations by the American Psychiatric Association. He also led the creation of a training curriculum used nationally by primary care mental health integration programs throughout VA, called Foundations for Integrated Care.

To support an integrated care program, Oslin developed specialized software to record and track patient outcomes in a standardized manner. Approximately 75% of VA health care facilities now use Oslin's Behavioral Health Laboratory software to track Veterans' mental health care.

In the area of precision mental health care, he co-authored a paper in 2003 that introduced the concept of collecting biosamples to research alcohol use disorder. Today, almost every clinical trial of this disease now includes a genetic component.

Currently, he is leading VA’s effort to study and implement pharmacogenetic testing in the management of mental illness, in order to customize drug treatments to an individual's genetic profile. He is the principal investigator for a multisite trial called Precision Medicine in Mental Health Care (PRIME Care) that looks at the utility of genetic tests for the treatment of major depression.

This research hopes to not only establish the effectiveness of pharmacogenetic testing, but also to develop educational materials for providers and patients that can be used well beyond the study. The work is expected to impact the delivery of care for years to come within VA and throughout the medical profession.

“Dr. Oslin has ‘moved the needle’ in terms of how Veterans receive mental health care in VA and is personally responsible for improving the quality of life for an untold number,” said Laura O. Wray, Ph.D., the executive director of the VA Center for Integrated Healthcare. “I cannot think of a better recipient of the Barnwell Award.”

Oslin is committed to mentoring and sharing his knowledge with other colleagues and with aspiring medical students, residents, and fellows. He actively participates in training medical students, residents, and nursing students at the University of Pennsylvania. He has also provided research mentoring to 33 junior faculty and postdoctoral fellows during his career. In his leadership role he has mentored many VA clinical leaders both locally and nationally.

The Barnwell Award is given each year to a VA investigator whose scientific contributions have changed clinical approaches to Veterans' health. The award is named after Dr. John Blair Barnwell, a highly regarded clinician, scientist, and educator who served at the Ann Arbor, Michigan VA in the post-World War II era.