MVP Leaders Reflect on the Program’s Tenth Anniversary

Dr. Sumitra Muralidhar, Ph.D., Director of MVP and Dr. Michael Gaziano, M.D., M.P.H., MVP’s Principal Investigator, share their thoughts on the MVP journey over the past decade.

What makes you proud about your work at MVP?

When Veterans sign up with MVP, they are signing up to help the future generations of Veterans.  I’m proud of many things about MVP, but most of all, I’m proud of the people. Every single person who is involved in the program truly believes in MVP’s mission. That makes me proud.

I’m proud of the legacy we continue to build together.

MVP has offered an opportunity for us to be transformative with our research and what comes of it. Not only are we on the cutting edge of great science that will transform the way we think about the structure of disease and help us develop new therapies, but also the extent to which we can help Veterans has been inspiring.

Tell me about an important innovation within MVP.

MVP Online is also an important innovation, and we haven’t yet fully realized its potential. For years, MVP has been a success thanks to face-to-face interactions between Veterans and staff. But if we want to reach all Veterans—including those in rural areas, and those in places without a nearby MVP site—we have to take MVP to the Veteran, instead of asking the Veteran to come to us.

We will soon launch one of the world’s largest genomic analyses on the country’s biggest computer: Summit. Summit will hold all of our data on genes and disease—including several thousand diseases and traits our Veterans have, as well as tens of millions of gene variations. While this kind of work has been done before, it’s never been done at this scale. I’m excited to make this data available to VA Investigators.

(MVP Online Exclusive!) How has MVP, its staff and Veteran partners shown resilience over the past year?

We demonstrated resilience in the best way possible—by supporting each other, helping others and leveraging MVP’s assets to address scientific questions related to COVID-19. We were able to quickly establish a volunteer registry to recruit participants for COVID-19 research, including the vaccine trials. Many of our staff volunteered at local VA Medical Centers, in addition to their regular work at MVP.

We also launched a COVID-19 science program to better understand the role an individual’s genetic makeup plays in their susceptibility to disease, the severity of disease and response to treatment. It was a challenging year for everyone, and I’m so proud of how we were able to switch gears. We established a library of information on COVID-19 and made that available to all of VA in April of 2020, much earlier than we planned. We hope to leverage our research to bypass years of drug development by finding existing drugs that might have utility in treating COVID-19.

Where do you see MVP ten years from now?

In ten years, I would want to see MVP fully integrated into healthcare delivery, serving as a platform to expedite biomedical discovery, and turning these discoveries into improved healthcare for our Veterans and all people.

In the future, when a Veteran visits a VA doctor, that doctor will have information not only about their health and health history, but also their genetic profile, lifestyle, military exposure, and more. Providers will be able to tell patients what drugs they will best respond to, and what illnesses they are at risk for. I see MVP driving and advancing precision medicine for Veterans. That is my dream for the future.

MVP is not just a cohort, it’s a platform for innovation. Over the next decade, I want to continue to grow our recruitment online, develop new areas to study, and make our data available to researchers for the next round of innovative science. I want MVP to conduct cutting-edge research, and then have that research bleed back to inform patient care.

(MVP Online Exclusive!) What would you like to say to MVP’s Veteran partners?

Getting to know Veterans and hearing their stories has been a truly humbling experience and I’m so grateful. Being a part of MVP right from the beginning—and now serving as its director—has been the most gratifying and humbling experience of my career and my life.

MVP’s working motto—"another way to serve”—didn’t come from a New York City Ad Agency. It came from Veterans. They didn’t ask, “how are you going to help me?” They said, “I’ll join if this will help other Veterans.” Veterans are an inspiration for me and for the whole team.

My father is a Vietnam-era Veteran, and my father-in-law is a World War II Navy Veteran. My son is an Army Ranger with three Middle East deployments. What an honor it is for me to serve my country through MVP, and to be a part of the VHA community its mission “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”

Thank you, Veterans, for being so forward-thinking and selfless, and serving the greater good.

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