VA Research Day showcases opportunities for Haley VA, USF Health collaborations

Opportunities for enhanced collaboration were revealed as leaders from USF Health and the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital gathered for a panel discussion and symposium May 23 —  a prelude to the annual Haley VA Research Day held May 24.

As part of the Haley VA Hospital's Research Day a symposium was held on 5/24 at the USFH campus to dicuss future research collaborations. On the following day posters were presented that included ongoing collaborative research projects between the VA and MCOM investigators.

A panel of leaders from USF Health and James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital met to discuss ways to strengthen research collaborations between the two institutions. The panel and symposium preceded the hospital’s annual VA Research Day on March 24.

Senior leaders from USF Health and the Haley VA  Hospital each shared their current research collaborations, as well as ideas for future endeavors. Representing USF Health were Charles Lockwood, MD, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine; Dianne Morrison-Beedy, PhD, dean of the College of Nursing; Donna Petersen, ScD, dean of the College of Public Health; and Kevin Sneed, PharmD, dean of the College of Pharmacy.  Representing the Haley VA were Joe Battle, director of  the hospital and its clinics; Robert Campbell, JD, MPH, PhD, acting associate chief of staff; Gail Powell-Cope, PhD, ARNP, co-director of the Center of Innovation on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (CINDRR); and Edward Cutolo, Jr., MD, chief of staff.

The news that seemed to generate the most buzz was the availability of data from the VA – big data. The Veterans Administration is capturing information for U.S. veterans, likely the largest compilation of population data that touches all 50 states and is being gathered across time.

As part of the Haley VA Hospital's Research Day a symposium was held on 5/24 at the USFH campus to dicuss future research collaborations. On the following day posters were presented that included ongoing collaborative research projects between the VA and MCOM investigators.

Dr. Robert Campbell, acting associate chief of staff at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, says the hospital has about 200 ongoing research projects at any given time.

“My story today is big data, health informatics, and predictive analytics,” said Dr. Campbell, whose research emphasizes identifying patient and system-level risk factors associated with fall-related injuries and other adverse events.  “I’ve been here for 16 years and I fell in love with the big data the first day I arrived and realized they were compiling it at the (Houston) Texas VA. Over the decades, they’ve made it more and more transparent and readily available for researchers to use.”

Dr. Campbell said the challenge making all that data meaningful is doing a better job training researchers and clinicians in health informatics.

“Things as simple as appreciating the strengths and weaknesses of diagnosis and procedure coding and how they’re used in the real world, primarily for administrative purposes and secondarily for clinical research,” he said.

As part of the Haley VA Hospital's Research Day a symposium was held on 5/24 at the USFH campus to dicuss future research collaborations. On the following day posters were presented that included ongoing collaborative research projects between the VA and MCOM investigators.

Dr. Charles Lockwood, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, said it makes sense for USF’s academic health center to strengthen its partnership with Haley VA, one of the busiest VA hospitals in the country, including jointly recruiting top researchers.

He shared a recent experience that underscored his point when he met with clinicians and “for the first time they saw what we meant by big data rather than hearing about it,” he said.

“It’s one thing to say we have millions and millions of records, encounters and discharges and they’re coded in the following way, but to see how the VA has systemically attempted to organize that information was a revelation. That only comes from taking the time to bring your collaborators over and show them the data and ask them what they’re interested in. There are a lot of strengths, but the weaknesses are that predictive analytics will require a clearer understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of those coding systems. It’s a work in progress and a dialogue that continues with our USF colleagues.”

As part of the Haley VA Hospital's Research Day a symposium was held on 5/24 at the USFH campus to dicuss future research collaborations. On the following day posters were presented that included ongoing collaborative research projects between the VA and MCOM investigators.

Among the symposium presenters was Dr. Frank Kozel, a staff psychiatrist and associate investigator in the Center of Innovation on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (CINDRR) at James A. Haley Veterans’s Hospital and an associate professor of psychiatry at USF Health. He spoke about a randomized trial using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation to augment combat processing therapy in combat veterans with PTSD.

USF Health’s Dr. Lockwood emphasized that students and residents exposed to faculty and staff conducting research are exposed the rigors of scientific inquiry and more likely to question the validity of approaches to  diagnosis and treatment and probe for evidence.

“On a broad scale, research improves health by demanding evidence-based care,” he said. “At the individual level, it can make you a better nurse, doctor, pharmacist, public health practitioner, physical therapist — a better health care provider — by challenging assumptions.”

Dr. Lockwood said it makes sense for USF’s academic health center to strengthen its partnership with Haley VA, one of the busiest VA hospitals in the country, including jointly recruiting top basic science, translational and clinical researchers.

“Given the VA’s access to an enormous amount of data, extraordinary comparative effectiveness research and clinical trials, its interest in neuroscience, which we are so committed to on our side of the campus, as well as common interests in rehabilitation, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, we’d be foolish not to work together,” he said.  “We have an obligation, in particular, to take the very best care of our veterans.”

As part of the Haley VA Hospital's Research Day a symposium was held on 5/24 at the USFH campus to dicuss future research collaborations. On the following day posters were presented that included ongoing collaborative research projects between the VA and MCOM investigators.

Dr. Denise Cooper is a professor of molecular medicine at the Morsani College of Medicine whose research is supported in part by the VA. She spoke about the use of exosomes from human adipose-derived stem cells in wound healing.

The other panelists also addressed the many advantages of more collaboration among researchers from both the VA and USF Health. And threading the narrative for these ideas – such as building a common foundation that includes representatives who meet regularly to share information and ideas – was panel moderator Shyam Mohapatra, PhD, MBA, Distinguished Health Professor at USF and research career scientist at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital.

“I’m delighted that both our organizations have come together today,” said Dr. Mohapatra, “Our goal is to start a dialogue between the VA and USF that leads to something more meaningful, offering more collaboration of education, clinical care and research.”

As part of the Haley VA Hospital's Research Day a symposium was held on 5/24 at the USFH campus to dicuss future research collaborations. On the following day posters were presented that included ongoing collaborative research projects between the VA and MCOM investigators.

Participating in the VA Research Day’s poster presentations were, from left: Nikita Patel, PhD, and Subhra Mohapatra, PhD, both associate professors of molecular medicine; Beth Grimmig, a PhD student in integrated biomedical sciences at MCOM (Dr. Bickford’s graduate student); Paula Bickford, PhD, professor of neurosciences at the USF Health Center for Excellence in Aging and Brain Repair and VA senior research career scientist; and Shyam Mohapatra, PhD, Distinguished Health Professor at USF and VA research career scientist.

Following the panel discussion, several researchers affiliated with both USF (medicine, public health, biomedical engineering) and the VA, presented highlights of their research.  Their symposium topics ranged from applying human adipose-derived stem cell exosomes in wound healing, to ways the growth factor GCSF promotes brain repair following traumatic brain injury, to trends in data mining and knowledge discovery.

The next day, March 24, more than 50 poster presentations were on display in the hospital’s auditorium for VA Research Day.

As part of the Haley VA Hospital's Research Day a symposium was held on 5/24 at the USFH campus to dicuss future research collaborations. On the following day posters were presented that included ongoing collaborative research projects between the VA and MCOM investigators.

Dr. Jamie Morano, (left) an infectious diseases physician at Morsani College of Medicine and James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, explains her team’s research poster.

Among the presenters was Jamie Morano, MD, MPH, assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Disease and International Medicine, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, and a physician at the Haley VA Hospital.  Dr. Morano’s study tapped into a powerful VA data tool to analyze the outcomes of hepatitis C virus treatment among Tampa Bay veterans with hepatitis C and HIV.

“We have residents and fellows who cross train at the VA and Morsani College of Medicine,” Dr. Morano said, “so it’s a great opportunity to build upon collaborative research that benefits both institutions.”

As part of the Haley VA Hospital's Research Day a symposium was held on 5/24 at the USFH campus to dicuss future research collaborations. On the following day posters were presented that included ongoing collaborative research projects between the VA and MCOM investigators.

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Anne DeLotto Baier contributed to this article.
Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications and Marketing