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Air Force Health (aka 'Ranch Hand') Study (AFHS) Scientific Research Symposium

Air Force Health (aka 'Ranch Hand') Study (AFHS) Scientific Research Symposium

SAVE THE DATE: August 13 – 15, 2024

Join us for the “Air Force Health (aka ‘Ranch Hand’) Study (AFHS) Research Symposium" presented by stakeholders including VA, Vietnam Veterans of America, the United States Air Force, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

What is the Air Force Health (aka ‘Ranch Hand’) Study (AFHS)?

Original Objective: This observational study, conducted from 1982-2002, evaluated the frequency and nature of adverse health effects that might be related to exposure to “Agent Orange” and other military herbicides used during the Vietnam conflict.

Era of Service: Vietnam

Study Population: Ranch Hand personnel who served among the C-123 aircraft crews (pilot, copilot, navigator, spray operators, ground support) between 1962 - 1971. Controls served between 1962 -1971 with no known herbicide exposure.

Study Design: 20-year prospective collection of data and biospecimens related to health outcomes.

Period of Active Study: 1982 – 2002

What is the August 13 – 15, 2024 AFHS Research Symposium about?

The VA, U.S. Air Force, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and the Vietnam Veterans of America have been working to make the biospecimens and data from the AFHS available for research to VA and other investigators.

The symposium will:

  • Inform participants about previous research using biospecimens and data from the AFHS.
  • Educate participants about the experiences and health concerns of Vietnam Veterans and their families.
  • Catalyze discussion on new and innovative ideas for research that will stimulate novel research proposals to VA’s national biorepository system, VA SHIELD, for research projects using the AFHS biospecimens and data and inform development of requests for applications or notices of special interest by VA.
  • Familiarize participants with processes for submission of research proposals.


What do the available specimens and data consist of?

Data Collected

  • Demographics, education, occupation
  • Medical history
  • Study compliance
  • Toxic exposures
  • Reproductive history
  • Clinical results from physical examinations

Data Collection Methods

  • Questionnaires
  • Physical examinations, including spirometry, chest X rays, electrocardiograms, dermatology and peripheral vascular examinations, neurological assessments, psychological testing, blood draws, urine and semen collections, skin and fat biopsies, and stool smears, etc.
  • Medical records
  • Biospecimen collection 
  • Mortality records data

Biospecimens Available

There are a total of 90,000 biospecimens available, including:

  • Whole blood
  • Serum
  • Urine
  • Semen
  • Skin and fat biopsies
  • Stool smears

Who Should Attend?

  • Researchers interested in military exposures research, and in particular, of the Vietnam War era.
  • Researchers with ideas and methods that could be explored with these unique specimens and data.
  • Vietnam Veterans and family members interested in hearing about and contributing research ideas.
  • Clinicians interested in the health of Vietnam Veterans.

Logistical Information

  • Symposium dates: August 13 – 15, 2024
  • Symposium format: Face-to-face with the option to attend virtually.
  • Symposium location: Announcement of the location is pending VA approval.
  • Agenda: Forthcoming
  • Registration link: Forthcoming

Call for Abstracts and Proposal Ideas

Please consider submitting an abstract for presentation at the symposium. Suggestions for abstracts would include:

  • Previous research done on the AFHS.
  • New ideas for research that could be done or replicated on the AFHS data or biospecimens.
  • Ideas for methods that could be applied to the AFHS assets that could answer questions of Vietnam Veterans or the public.
  • Call for abstracts link: Forthcoming!

Abstract Details

Abstract details forthcoming!

Selected Past Air Force Health (aka ‘Ranch Hand’) Study Publications

McConnell, Arthur F., Jr. January-1970. “Mission: Ranch Hand.” Special Collections, USDA National Agricultural Library. Accessed April 24, 2024,

Buckingham, W. A. (1982). Operation ranch hand: The air force and herbicides in Southeast Asia, 1961-1971. Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force.

Robinson, J., Fox, K., Jackson, W., Ketchum, N., Pavuk, M., Grubbs, W. Air Force Health Study – An Overview.1 Organohalogen Compounds Vol 68 (2006).  

IOM (Institute of Medicine). 2006. Disposition of the Air Force Health Study. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Pavuk M, Patterson DG Jr, Turner WE. Serum concentrations of TCDD and other dioxin-like compounds in US Air Force veterans of Operation Ranch Hand. Chemosphere. 2014 May; 102:18-23.

IOM (Institute of Medicine). 2015. The Air Force Health Study Assets Research Program.1 Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 

Landgren O, Shim YK, Michalek J, et al. Agent Orange Exposure and Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance: An Operation Ranch Hand Veteran Cohort Study. JAMA Oncol. 2015 Nov;1(8):1601-8. 

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Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.