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FASEB J. 2004 Oct;18(13):1481-6.

Veterans Administration support for medical research: opinions of the endangered species of physician-scientists.

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  • 1Veterans Administration Medical Centers, Northport, New York, USA.


Over the past three decades the Veterans Affairs (VA) Research program has evolved into a powerful, peer-reviewed funding mechanism for basic and translational research that has resulted in numerous important contributions to medical science and improvements in patient care. Continuity in VA Merit Review funding has fostered and nurtured the scientific careers of a large number of physician-scientists who have remained devoted to the mission of performing creative and innovative research that affects the patient care mission of the VA. VA medical research policies have undergone a major overhaul in the past year. Although many of these changes (de-emphasizing bench research and revamping the peer review process) have recently been reversed, the future direction of VA research remains in flux. The goal of this manuscript is to demonstrate the importance of the Merit Review medical research funding mechanism not just to the VA, but to the entire nation's health care system. To achieve this goal, the opinions of 65 established VA medical investigators were obtained regarding the past success and future direction of VA research. The conclusions reached include the following. 1) Merit Review research funding has been essential to the training, recruitment, and retention of productive VA physician-scientists. 2) The VA research program has contributed both basic and clinical innovations that have led to improvements in medical care. Contributions of VA researchers to excellence in many aspects of patient care at VA hospitals have been extraordinary. 3) Development of initiatives that entice outstanding Ph.D.'s to develop their careers in the VA has been crucial to the success of the program. 4) The VA research program has fostered a mutually beneficial relationship with affiliated medical schools. 5) Better methods to quantify VA research contributions and outcomes are essential for future program development.

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