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Phoenix VA Partnership Offers New Research Opportunities

The Phoenix VA Health Care System Research Space will be an incubator for research, technology and clinical care on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.
Cutting the ribbon on the new Phoenix VA Health Care System Research Space at the College of Medicine – Phoenix.

Phoenix VA Partnership Offers New Research Opportunities

The Phoenix VA Health Care System and the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix recently expanded their long-running partnership with the opening of a research facility that will accelerate the application of medical research into clinical practice.

The new Phoenix VA Health Care System (PVAHCS) Research Space is the result of an innovative partnership that will allow researchers on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus access to a secure database of medical and genetic information gathered by the VA through the Million Veterans Program (MVP) to provide personalized treatments for veterans.

Samuel Aguayo, MD

The genetic information will help physicians predict how patients will respond to medications and other treatments, and it will identify patients who may be eligible for a specific research study so they may be invited to participate in the investigation.

Research to improve veterans’ health care

The MVP program will provide science collaborators access to the richest medical genetic database in the world. These collaborations will help facilitate early disease intervention, prevent adverse reactions to drugs, save lives, decrease health care costs and improve quality of life for veterans.

“Our veterans have earned and deserve the best possible health care, and we believe that the best possible health care can only happen through innovation,” said Samuel Aguayo, MD, associate chief of staff for research at the Phoenix VA Health Care System. “Our veterans are volunteering for our research studies because they understand that the benefit is for them and for others.”

Dr. Aguayo, a distinguished pulmonologist, is the inaugural director of this PVAHCS Research Space. “We are blessed with a number of people who have a common vision,” he said.

College of Medicine Dean Guy Reed, MD, MS“Our investigators will help use this data to treat illnesses in areas of unmet medical need, such as mental health, traumatic brain injury, skin cancer, heart disease and numerous other conditions,” said Guy Reed, MD, MS, dean of the College of Medicine – Phoenix. “The insights that they gain will fuel the development of new therapies, new algorithms, new devices, new approaches for improving care.”

Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the United States and needs skilled physicians and health care professionals to care for its growing population. Likewise, the PVAHCS provides health care for more veterans every year, as the growth in enrollment continually climbs. This synergistic collaboration will help serve the community by recruiting renowned clinical talent to practice medicine at the PVAHCS and conduct research at the College of Medicine – Phoenix. They will also develop the next generation of skilled clinical researchers through a variety of residency and fellowship programs.

A culmination of tireless efforts among the college, the PVAHCS, the City of Phoenix Economic Development office and the Mayor of Phoenix’s office, the state-of-the-art research space showcases the dedication to driving economic development and providing life-changing medical treatments for veterans and the Phoenix community. Dr. Aguayo and others have worked for a decade to apply their vision and create the space.

“The Phoenix VA and University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix continue to lead by developing first-in-the-nation partnerships that serve as a role model for other academic medical centers across the country,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. “We are proud to support the Phoenix Biomedical Campus for continuing to be a key generator of economic impact for Phoenix and Arizona.”

A history of partnership

Since opening in 2007, the College of Medicine – Phoenix has partnered with the PVAHCS to prepare the college’s medical students and residents on the diverse health needs of veterans. As part of that collaboration, many third-year medical students rotate through the PVAHCS during their clerkships, in which they learn first-hand from top doctors how to provide excellent care to veterans.

Phoenix VA Health Care System

The college has more than 155 faculty members with affiliation at the Phoenix VA who serve as department chairs, committee chairs, mentors and advisors. These faculty members also participate in the doctoring program, clerkships, core lecture series and scholarly projects.

The partnership has grown through the years spanning many departments, including radiology, neurology, dermatology, internal medicine and, most recently, clinical informatics.

“We have worked hard to expand our collaboration with the Phoenix VA, and to enhance the scope of research on the campus,” Dr. Reed said.

A direct benefit to patients will be the ability to attract top talent in a variety of specialties, individuals who participate in research and education in addition to treating patients. The Phoenix community will benefit from having a thriving Health Sciences campus.