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RCS 17-297 – HSR&D Study

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RCS 17-297
Research Career Scientist Award
Mary Jo V Pugh PhD EdM MA
VA Salt Lake City Health Care System, Salt Lake City, UT
Salt Lake City, UT
Funding Period: July 2018 - June 2023

BACKGROUND/RATIONALE:
Over the past 15 years I have conducted population-based research on Veterans with complex comorbidity to improve the quality of their care and optimize health and functional outcomes. My research portfolio uses rich longitudinal data from VA and DoD and advanced methods that allow the ability to visualize and understand patterns of complex comorbidity and long-term outcomes associated with military injuries and deployment exposures. This work, described briefly below, is the foundation of my research career scientist award application.
My early work focused on quality of care and associated outcomes in older Veterans, but as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continued, the priority areas of VA and VA HSR&D changed, with an emphasis on post-deployment health and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Accordingly, I adapted my interests and skills to address those goals. Specifically, my focus turned to the impact of the signature injuries of those wars (TBI and posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD]) and the impact of military experiences and exposures in this new generation of Veterans deployed in support of the wars.
My published work describes patterns of comorbidity (traumatic brain injury and its sequelae, mental health, pain, and chronic disease) early in the course of VA care for the population of Veterans deployed in support of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (IAV), and functional status of those with different patterns of comorbidity. That work provided the foundation for current studies with my DoD colleagues to examine the long-term neurodegenerative, neurosensory, pain and mental health outcomes among IAV with mild TBI.
As the wars progressed it became apparent through our VA-DoD collaboration that the blast injuries associated with TBI and PTSD often included extremity injuries such as traumatic amputations, complex fractures, and vascular injuries. Other associated trauma that, while less common (e.g., burns, urogenital injury), also has profound impact on Veteran quality of life, mental health and physical function, and are often comorbid with TBI, PTSD, and other extremity injuries. Therefore, we focused our VA-DoD collaboration on these injuries that were a high priority for DoD at that time, and which have profound impact on VA resources including healthcare. The aims of this research career scientist award are informed by and designed to address current goals outlined in the VA Strategic Plan 2014-2020 and VA HSR&D priority areas.

OBJECTIVE(S):
Aim 1: Build health services research that spans DoD-VA via integrated mentoring programs.

Aim 2: Develop predictive models that identify individuals at greatest risk for adverse outcomes using diverse data from the DoD and VA.

Aim 3: Contribute to national VA Service opportunities, especially those related to DoD-VA research [and clinical] collaboration. This aim also builds upon VA Strategic Plan Objective 2.1.

METHODS:
Aim 1 builds upon VA Strategic Plan Objective 2.1: Enhance VA's partnership with DoD. By conducting mentorship/training that unites DoD and VA clinicians and researchers we begin to improve mutual understanding between agencies and develop researchers who are able to span agency boundaries to address mutual goals.

Aim 2 addresses VA strategic plan Objective 1.1: Improve Veteran wellness and economic security and several HSR&D priority areas: a) Healthcare Informatics; b) Mental and Behavioral Health; c) Women's Health (focus on sub-populations in trauma/post-deployment health research). This Aim will use merged VA and DoD data and deep learning models to develop prognostic models to identify Veterans at risk for adverse outcomes including suicide, overdose, homelessness, justice involved veteran programs, and mortality.

For Aim 3, effort will be used to contribute to work groups that have as a goal, enhancement of DoD-VA collaboration, identification of Veterans at risk for adverse outcomes, and non-pharmacological treatment approaches in addition to tradition service such as Merit Review and promotion panels.

FINDINGS/RESULTS:
Not yet available.

IMPACT:
A significant goal of the VA strategic plan is to strengthen VA-DoD collaboration and clinical care continuity. My RCS addresses this priority by focusing on training, research and service. For training I focus on the development of the next generation of scientists in culturally competent VA-DoD collaboration, scientific approaches using merged DoD-VA data, and service that merges VA and DoD. Research will incorporate trainees and DoD collaborators using longitudinal methods that will allow VA and DoD to identify patterns and outcomes previously impossible based on silos within VA and DoD. Service includes contributing to joint work groups and organizations such as the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Centers.

Only by this joint work in training, research and service using culturally competent methods can we truly strengthen VA-DoD collaboration.

PUBLICATIONS:
None at this time.


DRA: none
DRE: none
Keywords: none
MeSH Terms: none