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VA Health Systems Research

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"Health Services Research for a Veteran-Centered Learning Organization" was the theme of the 30th VA Health Services Research and Development Service (HSR&D) and Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) National Meeting that was held last week in Philadelphia, PA. This year's theme emphasized a robust commitment to forward-looking system change oriented around Veterans' needs, helping to meet the goals of VHA's Blueprint for Excellence. These include improving performance, promoting a positive culture of service, advancing healthcare innovation for Veterans, and increasing operational effectiveness and accountability.

Meeting participants included more than 600 researchers, VA partners, and clinical leaders. Competitively selected from 1,000 submitted abstracts, the meeting featured 160 peer-reviewed paper sessions, 16 workshops, and 199 posters on vital healthcare issues such as: end-of-life care for homeless Veterans, comorbid chronic pain and PTSD, racial healthcare disparities, patient-centered care innovations, improving communication between VA and non-VA providers, access to genomic advances in clinical care, and factors associated with opioid overdose, to name a few. Many of these studies depend upon strong partnerships between HSR&D and QUERI and other VA programs and offices, such as the Office of Business Analytics and Business Intelligence, Patient Care Services, and the Office of Information & Technology.

National Meeting Highlights

In his first opportunity to talk to a VA audience, David Shulkin, MD, VA's new Under Secretary for Health, presented the Under Secretary's Award for Outstanding Achievement in Health Services Research to Dan Berlowitz, MD, MPH, former Co-Director of HSR&D's Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research in Boston and Bedford, MA. In addition, David Atkins, MD, MPH, Director of HSR&D, presented several inaugural awards:

Other meeting highlights included a Keynote Address by Gregory Simon, MD, MPH, Senior Scientific Investigator at the Group Health Research Institute. Dr. Simon's research focuses on improving access to and quality of care for mood disorders (i.e., unipolar depression, bipolar disorder). Guest speakers included VA's new Chief Medical Officer, Carolyn Clancy, MD, who served as Interim Under Secretary for Health, and Nicole Hart, CEO of ARVets - a non-profit organization that works to enhance the overall quality of life for Veterans and their families. Ms. Hart received a standing ovation for her inspirational talk about her experiences as a member of the Arkansas National Guard serving in Iraq, and as a Veteran dealing with traumatic brain injury and PTSD.