VA Commemorates 85 Years of Medical Advances
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 22, 2010 Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould kicked off the National VA Research Week commemoration here today, marking 85 years of ground-breaking research that’s improving veterans’ lives, including veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gould praised participants at the forum for following in the footsteps of researchers who pioneered some of medical science’s greatest achievements in areas ranging from spinal cord injuries to vascular research to stroke rehabilitation and traumatic brain injury treatment.
From the first successful liver transplant to developing and testing effective tuberculosis treatments to developing the CT scan, pacemaker and other cutting-edge technologies, VA researchers have taken medical science to a new level – in some cases, literally.
Gould noted one of the most recent experiments, carried by the space shuttle to the International Space Station, that could have a major impact on the human immune system’s ability to help aging veterans fight off infections. Scientist-astronaut Dr. Millie Hughes-Fulford, director of the San Francisco VA Medical Center’s Laboratory for Cell Growth, directed the experiment.
“Though Dr. Hughes-Fulford’s T-cell experiment might be out of this world, the work of all our VA researchers achieves new heights in health care every day,” Gould said.
Those achievements are noted in the most respected journals and honored on award stages from Washington to Stockholm, he said, noting that VA’s Dr. Andrew Schally and Dr. Rosalyn Yalow received the Nobel Prize in physiology in 1977.
“Almost daily, VA’s research advances are making news,” Gould said, recognizing a paper on robot-delivered stroke rehabilitation published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study’s chairman, Dr. Albert Lo, is a neurologist at the Providence VA Medical Center.
Gould noted other areas where VA researchers are seizing opportunities to expand prevention, treatment and rehabilitation research, including areas that affect America’s newest veterans returning home with combat injuries.
“Our work with injured veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan — whose wounds are both seen and unseen — is making a huge difference not only in their quality of life, but in the quality of lives of countless others” who he said also will benefit from VA research into traumatic brain injury, spinal-cord-injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, diabetes, heart disease and other physical and mental health conditions.
Gould encouraged VA’s clinical care and research communities to continue working together, putting $1 billion in research funding for fiscal 2010 and 2011 to the best use in advancing clinical medical knowledge and providing new hope for veterans.
“The rising tide of research lifts the prospects of better health for all veterans — from the aging warriors of the ‘Greatest Generation’ to the youngest soldiers of the latest generation,” he said.
Dr. Audrey Nelson, director of VA’s Health Services Research and Development Center, said it’s gratifying to see the innovative technologies and innovations VA is advancing make a difference. “There is nothing like seeing a patient using a new technology or a new intervention and really seeing how it changes their life,” she said.
“We really want to bring everybody back to as much full function as we can,” said Dr. Roy Cooper, director of VA’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories in Pittsburgh, Pa. “That is the goal of research: to provide that hope that everybody will return to their fullest capability.”
Stephen Cochran, a Marine veteran who was left paralyzed from the waist down when an improvised explosive device exploded near him in Afghanistan, was among participants in today’s National VA Research Week kickoff.
Now a country music singer and songwriter who plays benefit shows to support fellow veterans, Cochran praised the care he received at the Nashville VA Medical Center with enabling him to walk again.
“Hope is what gave me the drive to face the battle of walking after my injuries left me paralyzed from the waist down,” he said. “That hope, and the experimental procedure performed at VA, is what got me to where I am today.”