Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
VA celebrates 7,000 Veterans enrolled in study
Veterans, staff, visitors and volunteers gathered in the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Welcome Center on Feb. 1 at 11 a.m. to celebrate the local enrollment of 7,000 Veterans into the Million Veteran Program (MVP). Charleston VAMC is one of 53 sites working towards the Department of Veterans Affairs national goal of enrolling one million Veterans into MVP, a research program that will help investigators better understand how genes affect Veterans’ health and illness. Last summer, MVP reached a milestone of 500,000 Veteran participants nationally.
“Charleston was one of the alpha sites for MVP, starting our program in 2011,” said Charleston VAMC Associate Director Pam Crowell. “We were involved in one of the first studies that investigated the relationship between genes and cognitive function in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. We understand how important research is for our Veteran patients.”
Another early and ongoing study at Charleston VA investigates the relationship between genes and risk factors for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study, along with many others in progress, will continue to bring benefits to Veterans across the nation.
“Veterans at our medical center have been thrilled to take part in MVP,” said Crowell. “We, in turn, express our deep appreciation to all Veteran participants and encourage others to consider enrollment.”
Dr. Mark Hamner, lead physician for MVP, remarked how heartwarming it is to see the response among Veterans who want to participate, including many of the hospital staff who are Veterans themselves.
“Perhaps the most common reason we hear for participation is that it helps other Veterans,” said Hamner. “This is indicative of the altruism and spirt of looking out for each other that Veterans have."
This tone was echoed by Veteran Ricky Harris who enrolled in MVP in 2012 and comes to Charleston VAMC almost every day to volunteer and recruit other Veterans to sign-up for MVP.
“I just want to help out. In the long run it will help out somebody. It will help out another Veteran,” said Harris.
Hamner also shared the story of a recent enrollee who is a Vietnam combat Veteran with PTSD, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. The Veteran was excited to learn that the research associated with MVP would give a better understanding of genetics and could potentially help with all of his diagnoses; diagnoses that effect other Veterans too.
“We have effective treatments here, but I would like to see even more effective treatments,” said Hamner. “It’s always been of interest to me how some individuals develop PTSD after severe trauma and others don’t. Or why do some Veterans respond to different types of treatment. Genetic differences may help explain these issues.”
During the ceremony, five Charleston VAMC employees were recognized with certificates of appreciation for their local support of the program: Sharon Robinson, health technician; Gertrude Green, registered nurse; Lisa Swinton, licensed practical nurse; and Dr. Vanessa Hinson, Associate Chief of Staff for Neurology. These staff members work in different areas throughout the medical center, but champion the program by educating Veterans on MVP and encouraging them to consider enrollment. Their support has helped increase participation in the research program. Dana Rosson, MVP program coordinator, was also recognized for her achievements in program promotion and increased Veteran engagement.
This national voluntary research program is open to all Veterans enrolled in VA health care. Participants are asked to complete a one-time study visit (approximately 20 minutes in length) to provide a blood sample for genetic analysis. Participation also includes filling out health surveys, allowing ongoing access to medical records, and agreeing to future contact. MVP will establish one of the largest databases of genes and health history.
To enroll at Charleston VAMC, visit room DD148 located in the Mental Health Research Building by the West Entrance, Monday - Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. No appointment is necessary.
If you have any questions or would like more information, contact the MVP Information Center at 1-866-441-6075 or visit http://www.research.va.gov/mvp.
Charleston VA’s MVP team is eager to have more Veterans enroll!