From the Chief Research and Development Officer
Transforming innovations in research into care for Veterans
This year, the theme of VA Research Week is "InnoVAtion to Implementation." This theme captures our special mission to ensure that our research results in real-world benefits to our Veterans—whether the goal is to help them regain their health, resume an active lifestyle, or reclaim their vital roles in family and community.
Translating VA Research into real-world impact for our Veterans is one of my three strategic priorities for the Office of Research and Development. The other two strategic priorities are to increase our Veterans’ access to high-quality clinical trials and to transform VA data into a national resource.
There are synergies among my three priorities. For example, through our collaboration with the National Cancer Institute, we are launching an initiative to allow more Veterans to participate in cutting-edge clinical trials for cancer. These clinical trials will not only bring Veterans living with cancer new hope for cures, they will also generate gold-standard knowledge that will help us discover the best treatments for cancer in the Veteran population.
We want it to be easier to bring high-quality clinical trials to Veterans in VA. Dr. Grant Huang, director of the VA Cooperative Studies Program, is part of the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative—a group of more than 80 organizations that aims to improve the quality of clinical trials. He and his colleagues recently published a paper on the difficulties that investigators can experience when trying to recruit enough patients into clinical trials. The team proposed several strategies to make it easier for Veterans and other patients to join a clinical trial, and to help research teams communicate with their patients in the most effective way. You’ll read a summary of their recommendations in this issue.
Another important issue that affects Veterans is the effective delivery of health services. It isn't enough to develop new medications and treatments, if Veterans cannot access them in a timely manner. In this issue of VARQU, we speak with Dr. Walid Gellad, a physician and research scientist at VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. Dr. Gellad is considered a national expert on prescription drug pricing and helping patients take their medications as prescribed.
He and his team are examining the issues that might face "dual users"—in this case, Veterans who get their medications both from the VA health system and from Medicare. In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, Gellad says that Veterans who obtain opioid medications from both from VA and Medicare may be at greater risk for receiving higher doses of opioids or additional medications that could interact badly together. He says improving data-sharing between VA and other federal health systems is the first step to addressing this problem that endangers the well-being of Veterans.
Research Week is also a great time to highlight VA's extraordinary researchers and the innovations they make possible. Dr. Geoffrey Gorse is a prime example of the excellence that characterizes VA investigators. He is infectious disease specialist and physician at VA St. Louis Health Care System. I was privileged to be present at the VA St. Louis Research Week ceremony to see Dr. Gorse receive a Lifetime Achievement Award—recognizing more than 25 years of clinical research activities in VA. Dr. Gorse is a senior investigator whose important work has provided the foundation for the development of the present-day flu vaccine.
These are exciting times for VA research and the Veterans we serve, as we push the envelope to develop new innovations in care and make them available to patients sooner. I hope you enjoy reading about these and other new developments in this issue of VA Research Quarterly Update.
Rachel B. Ramoni, D.M.D., Sc.D.
Chief Research and Development Officer