Officials at the Eisenhower Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leavenworth recognized where the facility has been and where it's going with the culmination of its third annual Research Week.
The perimeter of the Schwarzkopf Conference Room at the VA hospital here was lined with posters describing past and ongoing research projects that employees at the facility were undertaking. Dr. Mary Oehlert, associate chief of staff for research at the VA, said it is work that plays an important role in delivering care to the facility's clients ― veterans.
“Research is really a major contribution that the VA medical centers make,” she said.
This is the first year that the VA has publicly recognized its research, Oehlert said, hearing from both supporters in the community of the ongoing work in the VA healthcare system and those in the field of research itself.
A number of speakers held up the MVP, or Million Veteran Program, as one of the premier research projects currently being undertaken by the VA. The MVP asks veterans to volunteer for a one-time study visit, blood sample and ongoing contact to build a genetic database used in a number of research applications and potentially develop new treatments for some conditions.
Rudy Klopfer, director of the VA Eastern Kansas Healthcare System that includes facilities in Leavenworth and Topeka along with smaller outpatient clinics, said the system saw its status upgraded this year, partially because of the increased number of research investigators. He said he sees the facilities growing in that direction, especially with efforts like MVP ongoing.
“We're going to continue to reach out to our staff and those who may not be on our staff right now to come to the VA and do research,” he said.
Among those in the latter category are Dr. Robin Aupperle. Currently, Aupperle is an investigator at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying why some patients don't respond to certain therapies for post-traumatic stress disorder. A VA career development award is now underway to bring Aupperle and her project to the veterans healthcare system. For work that is aimed at improving the efficacy of PTSD treatment for patients, she said it's a natural fit.
“This research is really meant to move that forward,” she said, referring to existing PTSD knowledge.
Retired Lt. Gen. Robert Arter, civilian aide to Secretary of the Army John McHugh, passed on the appreciation of the work to bring those new applications forward from his superior before offering his own praise to the VA staff who perform those studies.
“We will remember you, who labor so selflessly and with such uncommon ability and dedication and commitment to ensure that wounded soldiers do recover and do grow old,” he said.