Posted August 3, 2018
Jarred Younger, Ph.D., University of Alabama Birmingham
Cutting-edge research is being conducted throughout Alabama on Traumatic Brain Injury, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Chronic Pain, Opioid Addiction, Suicide Prevention, Chronic Multisymptom Illnesses, including Gulf War illness, and many other conditions that affect Service members, Veterans, and their families. However, these projects have traditionally been scattered across the state and difficult to locate. The University of Alabama System is initiating a comprehensive effort to make scientific research more accessible to Veterans, Service members, and Military Families. The strategy aims to enable individuals to easily find and participate in relevant projects occurring in the state, including projects funded by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP).
Because most individuals may not be aware of the important research occurring in their area and others, Chancellor Ray Hayes has commissioned The University of Alabama System’s Veterans Affairs Initiative. This is a joint initiative involving the major state research institutes in Alabama: The University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa), University of Alabama in Huntsville, University of Alabama at Birmingham, and University of Alabama Health System in Birmingham.
One of the primary aims of the Veterans Affairs Initiative is to significantly increase Alabama’s investment in Military- and Veteran-focused research. The first product will be a single website portal for all relevant research in Alabama. The site will have descriptions of all projects, profiles of the research teams, and contact information for learning more and discussing possible participation. Several other advances will help Alabama researchers solve the most pressing issues facing Veterans. A new research hub is planned that will allow investigators to share ideas, resources, and technologies, and create teams for multi-site clinical trials and other major research projects. A pilot grant program will encourage new researchers to conduct Military-focused research, aid in the development of new collaborations, and provide preliminary data to allow researchers to be more successful in getting grants.
These new research efforts are part of a larger initiative to increase the wellbeing of Veterans and Service members by improving access to services, creating tailored educational experiences, and stimulating high-impact research. It is hoped that this initiative will serve as a model for other states wishing to increase the scope and impact of Veterans research, and further improve the lives of its Veterans and Service members.
One researcher who hopes to benefit from the new initiative is Dr. Jarred Younger, Associate Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Younger is the Principal Investigator for two CDMRP-funded awards, one of which is testing a novel daily monitoring approach to examine changes in the health status of Veterans with Gulf War illness and the other aims to treat these Veterans with various botanicals that offer anti-inflammatory properties. Dr. Younger noted, “It is really encouraging to see Alabama's higher education system place a high priority on its Veterans. Biomedical research is one part of this support, but I think a crucially important one. Ultimately, we want Alabama researchers to develop the most effective treatments and solutions to the problems faced by military personnel. The hardest part of running research is recruiting study participants, so I'm really interested in helping connect researchers and potential participants.”