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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Million Veteran Program: A Partnership with Veterans

January 4, 2012


Research Assistant Tammy Natividad draws blood from Veteran

“The Million Veteran Program is a research program that could allow current Veterans to help transform health care, not only for themselves, but for future generations of Veterans,” said Rayan Al Jurdi, M.D., a MEDVAMC psychiatrist. Research Assistant Tammy Natividad draws blood from Veteran and MVP participant Frank Furleigh while Al Jurdi observes.
PHOTO:  Fran Burke, Public Affairs Specialist

The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) is one of 40 VA medical centers selected across the nation to serve as an enrollment site for a voluntary research program - The Million Veteran Program (MVP).

This program will help us better understand how genes affect Veterans’ health and illness, with the ultimate goal of transforming health care.

What is MVP?
The Million Veteran Program (MVP): A Partnership with Veterans is a national, voluntary research program conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Research & Development.

Participants will be asked to complete a one-time study visit (approximately 20 minutes in length) to provide a blood sample for genetic analysis. Participation also includes filling out health surveys, allowing on-going access to medical records, and agreeing to future contact.

This research program will establish one of the largest databases of genes and health history. The results of MVP may lead to new ways of preventing and treating common illness. 

MVP aims to enroll as many as one million Veterans over the next five to seven years.

What are genes, and how do they affect health?
Genes are made up of DNA and are inherited. They are the instructions for building and maintaining our bodies. Genes determine the color of our eyes and hair, our height, and other personal traits. Through complex interactions with our environment and various lifestyle factors, certain genes may also contribute to our risk for disease, including common illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

In fact, genes may be a critical part of why some people get diseases and others do not. Genes may also affect how we respond to certain medications. Because of their genetic make-up, some people may respond better than others to a particular treatment, or experience different side effects. Overall, a better understanding of how genes work may help to prevent and improve treatment of disease.

Who is coordinating MVP enrollment in Houston?
Rayan Al Jurdi, M.D., a MEDVAMC psychiatrist, and Drew A. Helmer, M.D., M.S., associate director of MEDVAMC Research – Prime Care, are coordinating the local effort. Tammy Natividad, Doralene Smith, R.N., and Emily Boeckman are the Houston MVP representatives. At the end of December 2011, 954 local Veterans had enrolled. The goal is to enroll 20,000 Veterans from southeast Texas in the next five years.

Additional Information
By participating in MVP, Veterans will help contribute to the knowledge base that may result in developing personalized treatments for military-related illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as more common illnesses, like diabetes and heart disease.

Results from MVP will help improve health care for Veterans and all Americans. MVP has extensive safeguards in place to keep Veterans’ personal information secure and confidential. Participation will not affect access to health care or benefits.

Contact Information
Visit the website of the Million Veteran Program at to learn more. For more information or to participate, call the MVP information center toll-free 1-866-441-6075.

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Awarded re-designation for Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services in 2008, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center serves as the primary health care provider for more than 130,000 veterans in southeast Texas. Veterans from around the country are referred to the MEDVAMC for specialized diagnostic care, radiation therapy, surgery, and medical treatment including cardiovascular surgery, gastrointestinal endoscopy, nuclear medicine, ophthalmology, and treatment of spinal cord injury and diseases. The MEDVAMC is home to a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic; Network Polytrauma Center; an award-winning Cardiac and General Surgery Program; Liver Transplant Center; VA Epilepsy and Cancer Centers of Excellence; VA Substance Abuse Disorder Quality Enhancement Research Initiative; Health Services Research & Development Center of Excellence; VA Rehabilitation Research of Excellence focusing on mild to moderate traumatic brain injury; Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center; and one of the VA’s six Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers. Including the outpatient clinics in Beaumont, Conroe, Galveston, Houston, Lufkin, Richmond, and Texas City, MEDVAMC outpatient clinics logged almost 1.3 million outpatient visits in fiscal year 2011. For the latest news releases and information about the MEDVAMC, visit