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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 Eighth Story: An AO-"K" Recollection

Nancy Parks
Former Administrative Officer (AO) for Research and Development and Executive Director of the Augusta Biomedical Research Corporation
Augusta, GA

As I write this about something that happened 25 years ago, I am not sure I trust my memory to be totally accurate. The Corporations were originally established in order to have a way to manage non-VA research funds. Most of the funds were being managed at the VA-affiliated University.

As an Administrative Officer (AO) for Research and Development and Executive Director of the Augusta Biomedical Research Corporation at the VAMC in Augusta, GA, I participated with other AO’s and ACOS’s in establishing NAVREF. 

The fledgling non-profit corporations around the country saw a need for administrative support and eventually lobbying of Congress in support of VA research. Barbara West was working with a lobbying group and was the person who helped us with the lobbying. I can see her now walking down the streets of Washington with her large mobile “bag phone” making phone calls while we all followed along behind her like ducklings. She was the only one with a phone and the only one who knew the directions and lobbying protocols. The efforts were successful in bringing attention to the VA Research programs.

During my tenure as Chairman of the Board 1994-1995, Barbara approached us with the idea of leaving her lobbying firm and serving as the full-time Executive Director for NAVREF. The Board voted unanimously to hire her and it was a great decision. We immediately began to write guidelines for all corporations and Barbara was very instrumental in this effort. We also conducted reviews for corporations to establish “good practices.”

The NAVREF Board meetings, held periodically around the country, not only helped with ideas about the non-profit corporations, but also sharing of problems and solutions in running the VA Research Services. Almost all of the Executive Directors were also Administrative Officers for Research and Development. In addition, the Board also included an ACOS for Research and a Hospital Director. Everyone benefited from the meetings. (I have to admit that Barbara always found interesting places to have the board meetings!)

I was honored to serve on the Board of Directors and look back fondly on the friendships and fellowship with other members of the Board. The experience was invaluable.

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Our Ninth Story: The SOP Anecdote

Bob Dresch
Executive Director, McGuire Research Institute
Richmond, VA

Back in the 90's our NPC was one of the first to have an in depth IG survey. We wanted to run a tight ship and we developed very strict travel policies with low hotel reimbursement caps.These worked in many places, but not for places like San Francisco and New York, so we started allowing some leeway for those areas. Well, the IG looked at every single travel reimbursement and nailed us for not always following our travel policies. But, on the way out the door the head of the IG team took me aside and said, "sorry we had to write you up on the travel, we had no choice, you have to follow your own policies."  He followed with this advice, "you guys are running a good program but going forward remember you don't want to unnecessarily give auditors something to audit, your travel caps were too low, just get your Board to increase them to cover the big cities, we all know you can't get a decent room in New York for a hundred bucks." 

Lesson learned 20 years ago, when developing SOPs, make sure you can follow them.
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