Bay Pines VA Enrolls 10,000 Veterans in Million Veteran Program

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A U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran became the Bay Pines VAHCS’s 10,000th enrollee into the Million Veteran Program on June 16 - a national research program that aims to understand how genes affect health.

(From left) Lori Sisler, Assistant Research Coordinator, Million Veteran Program (MVP) Bay Pines VAHCS; U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran James Froman; Dr. Rachel McArdle, local MVP site investigator and Asso

After I was educated about the program, I immediately agreed to participate. I support anything that can potentially benefit fellow Veterans.

Since 2011, the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System (VAHCS) has recruited Veteran volunteers for a national research program that aims to understand how genes affect health. Called the Million Veteran Program, the research project entails building the largest genetic databases in the country for future research on diseases like diabetes and cancer, and military-related illnesses.

U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran James Froman became the Bay Pines VAHCS’s 10,000th enrollee on June 16 at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center – one of 52 national MVP enrollment sites across the country. Nearly 390,000 Veterans have participated nationally, representing more than one-third of VA’s goal of 1 million enrollees.

“The enrollment process into MVP was virtually seamless,” said Froman a native of Nokomis, Fla. “After I was educated about the program, I immediately agreed to participate. I support anything that can potentially benefit fellow Veterans,” he said.

Froman completed his enrollment into MVP by completing simple paperwork and a quick blood draw during a routine lab appointment at the medical center’s outpatient laboratory.

Like Froman, all MVP participants are asked to complete a brief, one-time study visit to provide a blood sample for genetic analysis. Participation also includes filling out simple health surveys, allowing on-going access to medical records, and agreeing to future contact. Veteran participation does not affect access to VA health care or benefits and stringent safeguards are in place to protect patient privacy and confidentiality.

“Hitting the 10,000 mark is a huge milestone for Bay Pines,” said Dr. Rachel McArdle, MVP local site investigator (LSI) and Associate Director, Clinical Care, Rehabilitation, and Restoration Directorate, Hearing Center of Excellence. “All national enrollment sites have a goal of recruiting 20,000 participants, and we are half way there,” she said.

McArdle said Bay Pines consistently ranks nationally as a top ten enrollment site for MVP. On average, 60-80 Veterans enroll into the program at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center each week.

“Our local research coordinators Gary Smith and Lori Sisler do a wonderful job recruiting Veterans for the program,” McArdle said. She also credited Dr. Theodore Strickland, who serves as a Co-LSI and also the healthcare system’s Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Chief, for allowing the integration of MVP operations into the outpatient laboratory at the medical center. This makes the enrollment process very easy for Veterans as it can be done during regularly scheduled lab appointments or on a walk-in basis.

VA expects to reach its goal of 1 million MVP participants nationally in the next three years. When the database is complete it will provide researchers with a rich resource of genetic, health, lifestyle, and military-exposure data collected from questionnaires, medical records, and genetic analyses. By combining this information into a single database, the program promises to advance knowledge about the complex links between genes and health.

To learn more about MVP, please visit http://www.research.va.gov/mvp, call Gary Smith at 727-398-6661 extension 17222, or visit the outpatient laboratory at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center Monday through Friday anytime from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information about the Bay Pines VAHCS, please visit http://www.baypines.va.gov or connect with us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/vabaypines.

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Jason W. Dangel
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