The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will celebrate National VA Research Week, April 23-27. This year’s theme, “Caring for Veterans through Discovery and Collaboration,” highlights the collaboration between VA research, academic partners, and other federal agencies as well as the transformation of research findings into advancements in health care for Veterans.
There is much to celebrate: The San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC) houses the strongest research and academic program within the VA nationwide, reporting $83 million in actual research expenditures in 2011. The program, which affiliates with the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing and Dentistry, annually hosts more than 760 research projects, 965 researchers, and 240 principal investigators. The results, whether pioneering new medical procedures, discoveries or inventions, all translate into developing better clinical care for VA patients.
“Research funding is obtained through hard work and diligent efforts of our principal investigators. Applications for funding are submitted and peer reviewed,” said SFVAMC’s Associate Chief of Staff for Research and Development Carl Grunfeld, MD, PhD. Per Grunfeld, fewer than 1 in 5 grants get funded, and at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) the success rate is generally only 1 in 10. Much of our research is funded by NIH, and also by the Department of Defense, NASA, foundations such as Alzheimer’s Association and American Heart Association, academic institutions, and some industry trials.
“What makes our program so successful is we have great principle investigators, very strong researchers, novel ideas, and good application packages,” explained Grunfeld, who is also Chief of Metabolism and Endocrine Sections at SFVAMC and a professor of medicine at UCSF.
What sets SFVAMC’s research program apart? Its focus is in practical application of findings. “We address the fundamental issues in human biology and how it affects disease,” said Grunfeld. “Our researchers look at what causes disease, what therapy is best, and we incorporate our findings to improve patient services.”
Areas of particular interest are: prostate cancer, aging, oncology, hypertension, stroke, cardiovascular disease, Hepatitis C, breast cancer, PTSD, substance abuse, neuroscience disease, health services research, and advanced medical imaging.
GERIATRICS: Developed a tool that predicts likely years of good health in the elderly.
PSYCHIATRY: Developed the first neuroscience-informed cognitive training that improves social functioning in schizophrenic patients.
IMMUNOLOGY: Developed a therapy that induces remission in rheumatoid arthritis.
PTSD: Demonstrated that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is accompanied by structural/functional changes in the brain.
SMOKING AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE: Defined the link to PTSD and demonstrated that combined therapy for PTSD, substance abuse, alcoholism and smoking was superior to separate referral.
BONE DISEASE and TRAUMA: Developed a therapy to speed nerve regeneration that improves fracture healing. Defined new pathways by which menopausal bone loss can be prevented.
WOMEN’S HEALTH: Demonstrated where the risks of postmenopausal hormone therapy outweigh the benefits.
INTERNAL MEDICINE: Pioneered virtual colonoscopy.
DERMATOLOGY: Demonstrated that ceramides are beneficial to skin healing and developed ceramide-based skin cream. Companies worldwide now sell creams containing ceramide.
CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE: Demonstrated that beta blockers given before and after surgery reduce mortality for patients with heart disease risk. Defined the best practices in treating congestive heart failure.
Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City, has named alumnus Carl Grunfeld, MD, PhD, a recipient of its 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Grunfeld is Associate Chief of Staff for Research and Development and Chief, Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology at SFVAMC. It recognizes Einstein alumni who have attained distinction in their fields and who have made major contributions to the health and welfare of underserved communities.
Chief of Cardiology Barry Massie, MD, is the recipient of the 2011 John B. Barnwell Award. This prestigious award is given for outstanding achievement in clinical science, and is the Clinical Science Research and Development’s highest honor for scientific achievement. The award was established in 2007 to honor distinguished educator and physician-scientist John Blair Barnwell, MD; VA’s Director of Research and Education in the 1940’s.
Additionally, SFVAMC is the proud home of NCIRE – The Veterans Health Institute, the leading private nonprofit research institute in the United States devoted to Veterans health.
For more information about SFVAMC’s Research Program, or to learn how you can participate, click here.