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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 Third Story: From the CSP

Stories of Cooperative Work
Grant Huang, MPH, PhD
VA Cooperative Studies Program

Recently, a colleague from another federal agency publicly commented at a conference, “The VA is doing a lot of great work.”  She turned and asked me, “How do you do it?”  For us in VA, we understand how a “noble mission” in serving Veterans and having people who embrace a cooperative spirit to fulfill it explains our achievements.  We likely each have unique stories that readily illustrate these points in action.  Over some 13+ years in VA, some of mine feature NAVREF and the VA non-profit corporations (NPCs).

I have had the privilege of being associated with the Cooperative Studies Program (CSP) for most of my time in VA.  However, CSP was not my first stop in VA.  Upon first setting foot in the Office of Research and Development (ORD), I was detoured from CSP to other duties.  It was a “turbulent time” in the words of the person who initially hired me.  The larger context is a story for another time, but some may still get the reference to when “Friends” presented challenges.  One of my earlier duties was to research all the federal policies and practices on Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs). Bear in mind, my experience and background were not in this area nor had I even heard of a CRADA before.  My prerequisite qualifications basically involved: being relatively new and involvement in “cooperative studies”.  As with many VA tasks, it became an urgent priority that required me to quickly figure out a lot of things on the topic.  I also had to draft a model CRADA (which fortunately was not adopted).  Several people helped me for no apparent reason other than there was a situation at hand that needed to be addressed.  Fortunately, that was when I met some people from the VA NPCs and it became my first introduction to the NAVREF overall.  With people from ORD, the VA NPCs, the Office of General Counsel and other groups, a lot of intense hours were put in and obstacles overcome.  

Thankfully, my stories with NAVREF and the VA NPCs are not just ones involving crisis management.  In fact, what has occurred since then are the many “great works” my colleague referenced.  They include:  the definitive clinical trial leading to the approval of the shingles vaccine; finding that deep brain stimulation is effective in Parkinson’s patients; multiple major mental health studies; other trials ranging from diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease; and most recently, research in precision/genomic medicine.

Despite these scientific/medical achievements, my VA NPC and NAVREF narrative would be incomplete if it did not include the various times in which they helped bring together local VA research and Veteran communities.  Over the years, I have appreciated attending VA NPC-sponsored events that personalize and celebrate the VA research and education missions.  Being able to connect with our Veterans and to hear their stories is a great VA perk that cannot be understated.

On behalf of CSP, I want to thank our numerous VA NPC partners (word limits prevent me from listing you all) for all the shared stories.  Congratulations to NAVREF on celebrating 25 years.  I look forward to the stories that have yet to be written.
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