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All veterans who receive healthcare from the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System have the opportunity to be one of potentially one million veterans participating in a research project at 40 locations nationwide, the Million Veteran Program (MVP). Dr. Elif Sonel, a medical physician with the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, says MVP is a national, voluntary research program.
“It’s designed to better understand how genes serve and affect health and illness,” Sonel said. “The goal of the Million Veteran Project is to enroll one million veterans across the country into the program over the next five to seven years.”
The goal is to enroll 20,000 veterans from the Pittsburgh area. Currently, about 350 are signed up. Associated research in the Pittsburgh area will be conducted at the three Pittsburgh branches located at the Heinz campus and on University and Highland drives.
“Our ultimate goal is to improve healthcare for all veterans and all Americans,” Sonel said. “Our purpose is to establish one of the largest databases of genetic military exposure, lifestyle, and health information in the world.”
MVP strives to identify gene-health connections to advance disease screening, diagnosis, and prognosis which would tailor and personalize treatment and therapy. Sonel said even those who aren’t veterans will benefit from the MVP research.
“The information that we gather regarding our veterans across the country will be information that will be applicable for not only Americans, but all humans in the world.”
Sonel noted the volunteer veterans’ addresses, social security numbers, and other sensitive information will be kept confidential.
“I think this is important information to pass onto our veterans,” Sonel said. “They’re samples and health information will be available to researchers at the VA federal health agencies an academic institutions within the U.S. for future projects, but their private information will not be shared with them.”