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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Petersen Named Head of Research at Houston VA

February 12, 2013

Laura Petersen, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.P., was recently selected as the Associate Chief of Staff for Research at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC). In her new post, Petersen will be charged with management of one of the largest research programs in the VA health care system.

“Laura’s leadership in health services research and expertise in health policy research is recognized nationwide,” said Adam C. Walmus, M.H.A., M.A., F.A.C.H.E., Medical Center director. “Her unique knowledge and insight will significantly enhance our research program, thereby ensuring our Veterans have access to the latest medical and health care technology.”

A board-certified internist, Petersen is also a professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and the chief of the Section of Health Services Research in the Department of Medicine. She is the principal investigator on $16.3 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health and Department of Veterans Affairs. With 109 publications, she has held uninterrupted peer-reviewed funding as principal investigator since 1995.

In addition to her new position, Petersen will continue the role she has held since 2007 as the director of the Houston VA Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) Center of Excellence. The Houston HSR&D Center of Excellence is the largest health services research center in the Southwest and one of 15 competitively-funded VA HSR&D Centers of Excellence. 

The Center seeks to promote innovative research and scientific discovery, facilitate effective collaboration across multidisciplinary research teams, engage VA clinical and operations partners, and increase the impact of health services research on specific areas of central importance to the health and health care of Veterans. It houses more than 150 health services research faculty and staff, has an annual budget of $15 million, and is one of six sites selected by VA for the Collaborative Research to Enhance and Advance Transformation and Excellence initiative.

Under Petersen’s leadership, the Center has flourished with a three-fold increase in the number of VA-funded investigators and a 75 percent increase in the amount of grant funding from all sources.

Petersen mentors five primary Baylor College of Medicine faculty members; four of whom hold federal career development awards and three of whom have independent federal funding as a principal investigator. 

During her career, Petersen has fostered strong, long-term collaborations with VA health care administrators. These partnerships have been crucial in the implementation of her work. Notably, she is recognized for her work comparing the quality of VA and non-VA health care, assessments of racial disparities in health care, and the evaluation of the effectiveness of pay-for-performance. Petersen’s research has been published in the high-impact, peer-reviewed publications such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Circulation, and Annals of Internal Medicine.

Petersen provides local, regional and national guidance and counsel to VA Central Office through participation in several national committees. She has served in prominent leadership roles through membership on the National Advisory Committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Physician Faculty Scholars Program, the External Advisory Committee for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Centers for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research, and other organizations. In addition, she continuously works to strengthen and expand collaborations with local university affiliates in the Texas Medical Center. 

The first Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Generalists Physician Faculty Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine, Petersen received the Outstanding Junior Investigator of the Year Award from the Society of General Internal Medicine in 2001, the American Heart Association Established Investigator Award in 2005, and was elected to membership in the Association of American Physicians in 2011.

The research program at the MEDVAMC includes 641 active research studies and 164 active investigators. All four branches of VA Research and Development (R&D) are represented at MEDVAMC:  Biomedical Laboratory R&D, Clinical Sciences R&D, Rehabilitation R&D, and Health Services R&D. In addition, the MEDVAMC is home to a Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence; a Health Services Research Center of Excellence; Cooperative Studies Program Network of Dedicated Enrollment Sites; a Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Center; an Epilepsy Center; a Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center; and a Cancer Center.