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 Fourth Story: A Sister Organization's Perspective

Gary Ewart, MHS
Chief, American Thoracic Society Advisory and Government Relations

It was the threat of being fired that introduced me to NAVREF. 

I had just been hired in the advocacy program of the American Thoracic Society when a board member -  who worked as a researcher in the VA - pulled me aside for a private conversation and explained to me that if I didn’t start an aggressive campaign to secure federal funding for the VA research program, my future career prospects would be “severely limited and brief.”  It was effective motivation, but didn’t provide much concrete direction.

Shortly after that motivating conversation, I was lucky enough to attend an Independent Budget Briefing where Barbara West gave a presentation on the Friends of VA Health Care and Medical Research Coalition (better known as FOVA) and its efforts to advocate with Congress for VA research funding.  FOVA is a coalition of over 80 medical professional, academic, veterans service, and patient organizations dedicated to the VA health system – with a particular interest in the VA research program.  After the briefing I told Barbara that I wanted to get involved in the FOVA coalition.  Barbara was very welcoming and took me under her wing and showed me the ropes of the VA research funding world. 

That brief initial conversation with Barbara has turned into a 20 year commitment of the American Thoracic Society to actively support the VA research program.  While it was Barbara’s initial welcoming attitude that got the relationship started, it has been the enduring commitment of NAVREF, and its leadership within the FOVA coalition, that kept things going.  With NAVERF’s guidance and the continued commitment of other organizations on the FOVA executive committee, FOVA has grown in effectiveness and stature.  The success of NAVREF and its work on the FOVA coalition can be measured in many ways, including FOVA’s reputation with congressional and administration staff as the go-to source for:  accurate information and successful congressional briefings on the VA research program, FOVA public witness testimony before Congress, and FOVA’s continued presence on Capitol Hill.  But the ultimate measure is the steady funding increases seen by the VA research program over the last 20 years. Without NAVREF’s work in the FOVA coalition, those increases likely would not have happened.

In my 20 years as a lobbyist, I have pushed for support of essential public health and research programs (NIH, CDC, EPA, OSHA, etc.) that play a vital role in protecting the health and welfare of the American public. I have also contributed to many coalition efforts in support of various programs. I can honestly say that my work with NAVREF in the FOVA coalition has been the most successful and professionally satisfying work I have done.

Thank you Barbara for getting me started.  Thank you NAVREF for keeping me going.
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