VA Portland Health Care System
Research & Development - About Us
The VAPORHCS currently has over 150 investigators and more than 500 active protocols. In fiscal year 2019, VAPORHCS scientists were successful in competing for over $37 million in research grants from the VA, NIH, DOD and other sources. The VAPORHCS ranks in the top 6 among all VAs nationwide in total research funding. Research is conducted in a total of 98,000 square feet of wet and dry lab space that supports programs in basic science, clinical research, rehabilitation, health services, cooperative studies, epidemiology and outcomes research. Investigator initiated independent research programs represent the majority of research activities at the Portland VA. The established research programs reflect the special needs and interests of veterans treated at this medical center. The Portland VA has been fortunate to receive several large grants that reflect the critical mass of scientists who have assembled here to investigate important diseases. These include:
NIH-funded Portland Alcohol Research Center (PARC)
Scientists here are among leaders in the quest to tease out the complex interplay between heredity and alcoholism, tracking down genes that may either increase or decrease risk.
NIH-funded Cancer Center, with affiliate OHSU
The VAPORHCS dedicated its newest research building, the Northwest Veterans Affairs Cancer Research Center in 1999. This facility houses joint projects of the VAPORHCS and OHSU, many of them on the frontiers of research to forge an entirely new generation of cancer treatments “smart bombs” that target only cellular abnormalities underlying cancers, sparing normal tissue that can be damaged by radiation and standard chemotherapy.
People are often surprised to learn that the most common service-connected disability—affecting an estimated 300,000 veterans—is hearing loss. This is the only center in the VA dedicated to addressing the needs of veterans with hearing loss and tinnitus, the mysterious ringing in the ears suffered by millions of Americans.
A collaboration with the VA Puget Sound Health Care System, this center focuses on understanding basic mechanisms, developing better treatments and improving health services for post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia—two devastating problems common among our nation’s veterans.
Research Enhancement Awards Program in Multiple Sclerosis
This group is seeking new weapons against multiple sclerosis, a disabling disorder affecting some 350,000 Americans. A recent study found that a combination treatment of estrogen and a vaccine developed by the Portland team could prevent a similar disease in female mice—a finding the researchers hope to translate to humans.
Parkinson’s Disease Research Education and Clinical Center. The VAPORHCS gained a special center when it was named one of six new VA centers specializing in Parkinson’s disease, a debilitating neurological disorder that afflicts 1.5 million Americans. Research projects will include studies to determine whether deep brain stimulation can reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, to find ways of regenerating brain cells damaged by the disorder, and to sort out the cause of Parkinson’s-associated cognitive problems.
A joint venture with the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System, this Center will address the healthcare needs of veterans with multiple sclerosis. Research will focus on pre-clinical studies with novel therapies using animal models as well as clinical trials to translate basic science advances to the bedside.
Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Resource Center
This center will promote state of the art treatment, evaluation and research to treat the hepatitis C virus. It is also a joint venture with the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System. A special emphasis will be to improve screening and access to care for veterans with both HCV and psychiatric illness.
NIH-funded Methamphetamine Abuse Research Center (MARC)
This center will focus on understanding the mechanisms and genetics of methamphetamine addiction. Planned studies include clinical trials, receptor analysis using in vitro methods, animal modeling, and genetic associations.
Center to Improve Veteran Involvement in Care (CIVIC)
CIVIC is a Department of Veterans Affairs-funded Center of Innovation that supports health services researchers at VA Portland Health Care System. CIVIC seeks to improve Veterans’ care experiences through research that evaluates and promotes Veterans' active engagement and ongoing involvement in their healthcare. CIVIC scientists are a multidisciplinary group that includes physicians, psychologists, epidemiologists, and social scientists. They are supported by a team of data analysts and programmers, statisticians, and qualitative analysts. They also provide research mentorship to junior faculty and to other trainees including advanced health services research fellows.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Evidence Based Practice Center
This center reviews all relevant scientific literature on selected medical topics and conducts additional analyses when appropriate.
The VAPORHCS benefits greatly from its strong affiliation with Oregon Health & Science University. Research collaborations between the two institutions are greatly enhanced by a sky bridge that connects the VA with the university. Core facilities located within the VA include flow cytometry with cell sorting capability, pathology and tissue procurement, laser dissection microscopy, confocal microscopy, and molecular biology. Additional core facilities housed at OHSU and fully accessible by VA investigators includes the gene array and biostatistical support cores.