Researchers at new facility aim to study veterans’ health issues
PHOENIX — A research facility that opened Wednesday at the Carl T. Hayden Veteran Affairs Medical Center offers a state-of-the-art setting for researchers and clinical trial patients to conduct studies of conditions that heavily affect veterans, such as mental health problems, lung cancer and diabetes, officials said.
Susan P. Bowers, director of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ network in the Southwest, said understanding the genetic makeup of veterans who have illnesses such as PTSD, for example, could lead to researchers being able to determine whether an individual is susceptible to the conditions.
“We really have the opportunity of changing the way health care is delivered,” Bowers said.
Once an administrative building, the center provides nearly 10,000 square feet of lab space, rooms for trial patients, biomedical refrigeration areas and waiting areas.
“To add this additional space here at the Phoenix VA medical center really is moving this medical center more to the forefront,” Bowers said.
Dr. Samuel Aguayo, chief researcher for the Phoenix VA Health Care System, said the facility will benefit the Million Veteran Program, though which veterans provide medical information and cell samples to help researchers understand the genetic makeup of various conditions common among veterans.
“We need to learn more about the genetics to cure these conditions,” Aguayo said.
The center also will help attract more researchers, he said.
The medical center’s 191 researchers and their clinical trial patients used to have to find room within the broader facility to conduct studies, said Dr. James Robbins, the center’s interim medical director.
“It’s important that patients participating in research studies now have a separate place to go to and feel comfortable.” Robbins said.