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25 Years | 25 Stories of NAVREF
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25 Years | 25 Stories of NAVREF
Since 1992, the National Association of Veterans' Research and Education Foundations has worked to support our members to become a source of excellence for VA Research and Development. Over the course of Fiscal Year 2017, NAVREF will be promoting 25 stories from our members, friends, and stakeholders recounting our unique heritage, culture, and spirit.  You can look forward to 2 recollections each month culminating on September 10th in Las Vegas where we will host our 25th Annual NAVREF Conference.  Thank you for your support of NAVREF’s vision of a nation in which veterans receive the finest care based on innovative research and education.

Our Fifth Story: Birth of the NPC

Richard Levine, MD
Former ACOS-R at the Washington, DC VAMC and Founder of the Institute for Clinical Research

NAVREF considers Dr. Richard Levine to be the “Founding Father of NPCs”. As the former ACOS-R at the Washington, DC VAMC, Dr. Levine set out to provide investigators at his VAMC with a local entity that was dedicated to their needs and familiar with VA requirements and processes. He envisioned an organization that would not only administer research projects performed at the VAMC with funding provided by non-VA federal and private sector organizations, but also provide more general support for the VAMC’s research programs. His determination and success delivered the first NPC.  NAVREF is committed to honoring Dr. Levine’s fight for the NPC and continuing his legacy of advocacy and support for VA-affiliated nonprofit corporations.

Once upon a time, during the Nixon years the US Congress controlled the size of the federal bureaucracy by passing laws to control the number of civil servants in different departments, or their annual personnel budgets, or in a few circumstances, both of these summary figures on an annual basis.  In the case of the Department of Veterans Affairs, they could either limit the number of Civil Servants and/or the budgets for the major components.  After some good years supporting research by DVA staff, OMB decided to squeeze the possibilities for non-civil service research positions.  We, the ACOS/R&D and the AA/R&D, decided to form a public-private non-profit association to obtain and use non-VA funds to encourage and support biomedical research at DVAMCs which could ethically and efficiently use funds from NIH, other federal entities, pharmaceutical companies, etc.

 The concept was to establish a non-profit corporation to be the business partner of the local DVAMC and to provide the VA with its own mechanism for administering non-VA research funds that was superior to using the general post fund or the local university.  These nonprofits, like the hospitals they support, would be devoted to and specialize in the health concerns of the veteran population.  Starting with senior research administrative staff and with the support of the Hospital Director, we planned to be able to provide responsible administrative and ethical oversight with knowledge of the details of the research projects, personalities, and DVA rules and expectations.

 After 1-2 years of medical center staff acceptance and successes in alternative funding, the DVA lawyer in charge of ethical concerns contacted us and essentially told us to "cease and desist".  We hired a private (formerly federal) lawyer who convinced Congressman Sonny Montgomery, Chair of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, that we should be supported, not harassed.  Mr. Montgomery had his staff write four pages of permissive legislation.  I prepared a list of 50 topics/possible issues that might need legal or Congressional "reinforcement" and Mr. Hendricks identified about 30 of them that he wished to have clarified.  He and I edited the list and that became the "concept list" for dissemination.

Henceforth we put on a series of workshops to train existing and newly hired staff in "how to run a federal non-profit corporation.”  From these early workshops and efforts to train non-profit leaders came the idea of forming a national association to help stand up, organize, and support these novel enterprises.  And 25 years later, NAVREF continues to advance the success of the VA-affiliated research and education corporations with exclusive focus on the health concerns of veterans.
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