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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs


VA Marks 85 Years of “Discovery, Innovation and Advancement”

April 22, 2010, 08:00:00 AM

Printable Version

Researchers Have Brought Hope to Generations

WASHINGTON – Eighty-five years of enriching the lives of Veterans and all Americans through top-notch medical research will be spotlighted April 26-30 when the Department of Veterans Affairs celebrates National VA Research Week.

On April 22, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs W. Scott Gould was joined by disability advocate Lee Woodruff and country music star – and Iraq and Afghanistan vet – Stephen Cochran at VA’s Central Office in Washington to kick off the official 85th birthday party for the Department’s research program.

“The rich history of accomplishment by VA researchers has improved Veterans’ lives and advanced the practice of medicine throughout the country,” said Gould. “The innovative VA researchers who turn so many hopes into realities are truly national treasures.”

VA, which has the largest integrated health care system in the country, also has one of the largest medical research programs.  This year, nearly 3,400 researchers will work on more than 2,300 projects, funded by nearly $1.9 billion.

VA’s research program was recently in the news when the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published the results April 16 of a study by VA’s Albert Lo of Providence, R.I., to use robotics to improve the recovery of stroke victims with impaired use of their arms and hands.

Gould noted the most recent space shuttle flight on April 5 carried to the international space station a VA research project to study the impact of aging on the human immune system.  The study is overseen by Dr. Millie Hughes-Fulford, a VA researcher in San Francisco and a former scientist-astronaut who flew on the space shuttle in 1991.

“From the development of effective therapies for tuberculosis and implantable cardiac pacemakers, to the first successful liver transplant and the nicotine patch, VA’s trail-blazing research accomplishments are a source of great pride to our Department and the nation,” Gould added.

In 1977, VA researcher Rosalind Yalow was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for developing techniques that measure substances in the blood with great accuracy.  Her work brought about “a revolution in biological and medical research,” according to the Nobel Committee. 

Eighteen years before, in 1959, Dr. William Oldendorf, a VA researcher in Los Angeles, built a unique device to measure blood flow in the brain with only $3,000.  He went on to create something even more remarkable -- a prototype for the first computerized tomography (CT) scanner. 

“Examples of this dedication and advancement are not limited to history,” said Gould. “Today’s committed VA researchers are focusing on traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, post-deployment health, womens health and a host of other issues key to the well-being of our Veterans.”

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