Four Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) researchers were among the 102 recipients of the 2012 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) honored at a ceremony held April 14th. The PECASE is the highest honor conferred by the U.S. government on federal researchers in the early stages of their careers.
"These four VA scientists truly embody the spirit and intent of the PECASE," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "In addition to making important contributions to our understanding of Veterans' health and provision of treatment, they are also adding to the body of scientific knowledge in their chosen fields of study."
Joining fellow award recipients from 11 other federal agencies and institutes as well as the intelligence community were VA investigators Dr. Karunesh Ganguly, San Francisco VA Medical Center; Dr. Brian P. Head, VA San Diego Healthcare System; Dr.Katherine M. Iverson, VA Boston Healthcare System; and Dr.Hardeep Singh, Michael E. Debakey (Houston) VA Medical Center. The ceremony took place at the White House.
Ganguly was recognized for his work on human learning vs. machine learning. His efforts to develop brain-machine interfaces--a technology that promises to enable those with permanent disabilities to control prosthetics--will improve the function and quality of life of Veterans and others following spinal cord injury, stroke, or amputation.
Iverson was honored for her studies regarding intimate partner violence (IPV) among women Veterans. Her work regarding the clinical importance of IPV screening has provided a foundation for better IPV detection and treatment and has informed emerging VA policy.
Head was nominated for research that may soon lead to gene therapies that treat a variety of nervous system disorders. His work holds great promise for helping those with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, patients recovering from stroke, and Veterans with traumatic brain injury.
Singh was nominated for studies using VA electronic medical data to improve patient safety and healthcare quality. In addition to developing novel methods for reducing diagnostic errors by alerting health professionals to abnormal test results, he has worked toward improved detection and understanding of patient safety issues in the VA outpatient setting.
"We are proud of these young researchers and the outstanding contributions they've made to Veterans' health," said Dr. Robert Petzel, VA Under Secretary for Health. "Their work exemplifies the many ways VA Research improves the lives of Veterans and the Nation."
Established in 1996, the awards are given each year for "innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology" and a commitment to community service.
VA, which has the largest integrated health care system in the country, also has one of the largest medical research programs. This fiscal year, nearly 3,500 researchers will work on more than 2,200 projects with about $586 million in direct funding from VA. Additional research is conducted under VA auspices by VA-affiliated investigators with funding from non-VA sources, such as the National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, and various private and nonprofit organizations.