Office of Research & Development

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VA RESEARCH QUARTERLY UPDATE
 

From the Chief Research and Development Officer


Two of VA's highest priorities are to provide enrolled Veterans with timely and high-quality health care, and to ensure that all Veterans have access to the excellent care our facilities offer. VA researchers are working to identify and evaluate innovative strategies to improve access and quality, especially for Veterans who may face barriers to care because they live in rural areas, or because they belong to racial or ethnic minorities.

  Timothy O'Leary, MD, PhD
Timothy O'Leary, MD, PhD

Timothy O'Leary, MD, PhD

Our researchers have been instrumental in understanding the needs of Veterans who live in remote areas, and in evaluating new initiatives designed to fill gaps in their care. These efforts have included understanding Veteran perceptions of access and barriers to care, developing new models for access to specialty care, and advancing innovations in connected health. The results of several new studies in these areas are discussed in this issue of VA Research Quarterly Update.

This issue also describes the results of a study demonstrating that, when all patients have access to the same levels of care, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic standing, African Americans may actually have greater longevity than whites, and lower rates of heart disease—in contrast to what most private-sector studies have shown. VA can be proud of operating a health care system that affords the type of equal care that makes such findings possible.

VA researchers are already looking at how recent changes in the health care landscape, such as the VA Choice program and the Affordable Care Act, are affecting access and quality for Veterans. They are also helping determine what VA can, and should, do to ensure these changes improve the quality of care the department provides. I am certain this will become an important area of emphasis for our researchers in the months and years ahead.

 Connected health—the use of communication and virtual technologies to connect patients with health care providers, regardless of location—has been a burgeoning area for VA researchers in recent years. Some of the technology in use in VA was showcased at a National Press Club event in 2013.
Connected health—the use of communication and virtual technologies to connect patients with health care providers, regardless of location—has been a burgeoning area for VA researchers in recent years. Some of the technology in use in VA was showcased at a National Press Club event in 2013. (Photo by Robert Turtil)

Connected health—the use of communication and virtual technologies to connect patients with health care providers, regardless of location—has been a burgeoning area for VA researchers in recent years. Some of the technology in use in VA was showcased at a National Press Club event in 2013. (Photo by Robert Turtil)

On a personal note, I will be retiring on Nov. 30, 2015. It has been my privilege to have served Veterans and VA research since 2004, and to have been the chief research and development officer since June 2014. In my time with VHA, we have been at the leading edge of the transformation of medical research in many areas, including genomics and targeted therapies. We have paid increasing attention to the specific health consequences of military service, while not neglecting the issues associated with Veterans as they age.

Our Million Veteran Program (MVP), now in its fourth year, is already the largest epidemiologic cohort ever seen in the United States, and our work on understanding the causes and consequences of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues relating to Veterans has become a major part of our research portfolio.

In the future, I see our researchers continuing to explore the frontiers of genomics and precision medicine, taking advantage of data from MVP and other sources; increasingly using health informatics for data mining and hypothesis testing; and continuing to improve interagency collaboration and cooperation, especially with the Department of Defense.

These are exciting times for VA research, and I look forward to continuing to follow the progress of our researchers as they serve America's Veterans and the American public.

Timothy O'Leary, M.D., Ph.D.
Chief Research and Development Officer


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