Veterans in town for the 117th VFW National Convention through Wednesday will have a chance to serve their country again by volunteering for medical research.
On Monday and Tuesday, representatives from the Salisbury VA Health Care System will be at the Charlotte Convention Center from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. collecting blood samples for future research on how genes affect health.
The project, called the Million Veteran Program, aims to collect blood samples from a million veterans in 53 VA sites across the country to build “one of the largest genetic databases in the world,” according to Dr. Robin Hurley, principal investigator for the study’s Salisbury site.
The samples, stored in a secure location in the Boston area, will be used by scientists studying the connection between genes and chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, as well as military-related problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, Hurley said.
So far, the national program has collected nearly a half million samples, and the Salisbury system has contributed almost 8,500, Hurley said.
Research will help scientists better understand the role genes play in health, Hurley said. If veterans give permission, researchers will also be able to review their health records and study the “chronic process of disease” including “conditions that worsen over time, or conditions that wax and wane.”
“This is an ongoing commitment we have to improving veterans’ health … for generations to come,” said Hurley, adding that the research will help “change the lives of not just veterans, but all of us.”
Before giving blood, volunteers will receive education about the project and be asked to sign consent forms. Veterans who are not attending the VFW convention can schedule appointments for the Salisbury, Charlotte or Kernersville VA sites.
For the Charlotte VA health centers, call 704-329-1300, ext. 81941. For Salisbury or Kernersville, call 704-638-9000, extension 5057. Veterans can also ask about donating blood when they’re visiting their VA doctors.