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2022 DEI Research Supplement Awardees

VA ORD's ability to ensure innovations in healthcare for the benefit of our nation's Veterans is dependent upon fostering a pool of highly talented, motivated scientists from diverse backgrounds who will help to further VA's mission. The second annual DEI Research Supplement awardees were announced in April 2022. They are:




Rehana Akter

Rehana Akter

VA Puget Sound HCS / Steven Kahn

Merit Award:  Pathogenesis and Impact of Islet Amyloid


Supplement Description:  Elevated plasma cholesterol concentrations are commonly observed in people with diabetes. The proposed project will examine the mechanism by which amyloids regulate cholesterol transport to induce mitochondrial dysfunction, that then triggers β-cell dysfunction and death.

Shayna Brathwaite

Shayna Brathwaite

Atlanta VAMC / Nader Massarweh

Merit Award: Enhancing the Efficiency of Data Collection for Surgical Quality Improvement

Supplement Description: Dr. Brathwaite will test the hypothesis that there are patient, provider, and system-related modifiable factors that are barriers to arteriovenous dialysis access creation.

Aryan Esmaeli


VA Palo Alto HCS / Clara Dismuke

Merit Award: VA-DoD Long-Term Impact of Military-Relevant Brain Injury Consortium (LIMBIC): Health Economics Study

Supplement Description:  The supplement project will examine the impact of cannabis use disorder on the progression of dementia in Veterans with TBI, which is a significant, understudied area. 

Jason Flake

Jason Flake

VA North Texas HCS / James LePage

Merit Award: Development of a psycho-social transition program and transition assessment tools for Veterans with mental illness and/or substance use disorders leaving prison

Supplement Description:  Veterans released from prison encounter a number of barriers to success, including high rates of homelessness and unemployment, difficulty with social relationships, barriers to mental health and medical services, and high rates of return to substance use.  Dr. Flake will create a brief standardized assessment tool that will help Veterans and clinicians assess their priority goals and needs and the critical barriers impacting those goals.

Eric Knott

Eric Knott

Miami VAHCS / Diane Lim

Merit Award:  Effect of Cyclical Intermittent Hypoxia on Lung Cancer Progression

Supplement Description: Dr. Knott's project will look at how the gradual deterioration of the immune system with age affects lung cancer progression.

Robert Lane

Bronx VAMC / Marianne Goodman

Merit Award:  CTBI: Traumatic brain injury-induced inflammation effects on cognitive evaluations and response inhibition: Mechanisms of increased risk for suicidality

Supplement Description: Dr. Lane's project will collect data on prior disclosures of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among Veterans, such as their proximity to suicide attempts, others' reactions to such disclosures, and Veterans' self-reported likelihood of future suicide disclosure. It will also study potential influences on suicide disclosure among Veterans, such as trust of partners and providers, mental health stigma, suicide-related coping, and attitudes and beliefs about services with mental health providers. In addition, it will examine racial/ethnic differences in the influence of these factors and study minority-specific potential barriers and facilitators of suicide disclosure, such as cultural values/attitudes regarding suicide and systemic racial/ethnic discrimination.

Brandy Martinez

Brandy Martinez

Durham VAMC/ Rajendra Morey

Merit Award: Mapping Subject-Specific Structural and Functional Connectivity to Parse the Unique Contributions of Subconcussive Blast, Mild TBI, and PTSD

Supplement Description: Approximately 33% - 39% of Operation Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) Veterans' diagnosed with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have a history of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI). Limited research exists examining whether alterations in the neural pathways underlying emotion regulation resulting from traumatic stress or blast-exposure sustain the mood symptoms associated with mTBI or PTSD. Dr. Martinez' project will address this gap by examining whether disruptions in functional connectivity networks underlying emotion regulation are associated with trait- or state- emotion regulation abilities in OEF/OIF Veterans' with PTSD, mTBI, or sub concussive blast exposure compared to unexposed controls. These results could facilitate the development of trauma treatment by aligning emotion regulation strategies with altered functional connectivity networks underlying emotion regulation.

Vanessa Caridad Somohano

Vanessa Caridad Somohano

Portland VAHCS / Lauren Denneson

Merit Award: Suicide Prevention Trials Database

Supplement Description:  Dr. Somohano's supplement project will be using meta-analytic strategies to assess gender-relevant mechanisms underlying interventions for comorbid PTSD and substance use disorders, and apply latent class analyses to identify gender differences in risk factors for worsening PTSD, substance use, and suicide over time.

Michelle Tamplin

Michelle Tamplin

Iowa City VAMC / Isabella Grumbach

Merit Award: Leveraging mitochondrial function to combat radiation therapy-induced microvascular disease

Supplement Description: Dr. Tamplin will examine radiation induced tissue injury mechanisms relevant to the Veteran population receiving radiation therapy. This therapy has deleterious consequences such as normal tissue injury cardiomyopathy, cognitive decline, and lung fibrosis.

Timothy Troppoli

VA Boston HCS / Ritchie Brown

Merit Award: Specification of sleep-wake control neurons in the basal forebrain

Supplement Description:  Dr. Troppoli will identify alterations in neurons following chronic stress. The project aims to give  insights into the sleep-wake cycle, depression, and insomnia, which are highly relevant to the VA population.

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