Friday, 16 April 2021

San Francisco VA Health Care System enrolls 5,000 veterans in historic research program

Joe Shanks, medical technician at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, draws a blood sample from Matt Parsons, Air Force veteran, on Thursday, January 31, 2019, at the San Francisco VA Medical Center during enrollment in the Million Veteran Program. Photo courtesy of the San Francisco VA Medical Center.

SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco VA Health Care System enrolled its 5,000th volunteer research participant on Jan. 31 in the national VA Million Veteran Program, or MVP, which is building a genetic database to help research and develop new treatments for veterans and non-veterans alike.

“This is a momentous occasion at the San Francisco VA and represents a remarkable collaboration between the research service and our clinical laboratory staff,” said Dr. Mary Whooley, site principal investigator for MVP at the San Francisco VA Health Care System. “We invite all veteran employees and patients to join us in this historic endeavor by enrolling in MVP. It’s quick and simple.”

The San Francisco VA Health Care System is one of 139 VA sites across the country where veterans can enroll in MVP.

Launched nationally in 2011, MVP is a landmark research effort aimed at better understanding how genes affect health.

Data and genetic samples collected through the study are stored securely and made available for studies by authorized researchers, with stringent safeguards in place to protect veterans’ private health information.

While the program is exciting from a research standpoint, veterans like Matt Parsons see it as a way to help other veterans.

“I know how valuable research can be in the long run,” said Parsons, an Air Force veteran and San Francisco VA employee. “Participating in this program gives me a chance to help other veterans get the best health care.”

With more than 700,000 enrollees to date nationally, MVP is now the largest database of its kind in the world – an integrated health and genomic database tied to a health care system.

MVP provides 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, MVP promises to advance knowledge about the complex links between genes and health.

Authorized researchers can use MVP data to help answer important questions on a wide range of health conditions affecting veterans, from military-related conditions such as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, to common chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

MVP-related discoveries also promise to advance the field of personalized medicine, which aims to tailor medical care based on people’s individual genetic profiles. Personalized medicine is expected to yield more effective treatments and reduce costs, given its emphasis on prevention.

How to enroll

Veterans interested in enrolling in MVP at the San Francisco VA Health Care System can visit the Outpatient Laboratory (room 2B-117 and 2B-118) located on the second floor of building 200 at the San Francisco VA Medical Center. The lab is open for MVP enrollments from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays. The medical center address is 4150 Clement St., San Francisco.

Veterans in the Santa Rosa area can enroll at the Santa Rosa VA Clinic Lab from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. every second Thursday of the month. The address is 3841 Brickway Blvd., Santa Rosa.

To learn about the national MVP, visit www.research.va.gov/mvp, or call the MVP information center at 866-441-6075.

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