Veterans keep on giving

VA

Hematologist Maria Ribeiro, chief of hematology/oncology and chair of the Atlanta VA Medical Center’s cancer committee, says that veterans view their participation in clinical trials as yet another way to serve their country.

"I was on television the other night," the Vietnam war veteran announced to his friends.

“Well, they didn’t mention my name exactly, but they said Emory doctors at the VA had just enrolled the first Georgia patient in a clinical trial for a new treatment for head and neck cancer. And that’s me.”

Another veteran, for whom standard chemotherapy was failing, called the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) to ask if he were eligible for a clinical trial. He was, and the new treatment he received proved to be effective. Over the next four years, he maintained a bulletin board for his physicians, adding new photos from his trips to Europe, South America, and elsewhere. The drug he received has since become the standard of care for his kind of late-stage colon cancer.

As the relationship between the Atlanta VAMC and Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute keeps expanding, hundreds of veterans with cancer have had the opportunity to participate in one or more of many National Cancer Institute and other clinical trials under way at the VA, thanks to their Emory doctors. Maria Ribeiro, chief of hematology/oncology and chair of the VAMC’s cancer committee, says that the veterans view their participation in clinical trials as yet another way to serve their country. They are as proud of contributing to medical progress as we already were of them, she says.

In addition to caring for patients with lymphoma or leukemia, Ribeiro sees more unusual cases, like the World War II vet with unexplained profuse bleeding during routine heart surgery. In her 17 years at the VAMC, she has diagnosed almost 20 cases of previously unrecognized hemophilia in patients there, a condition that would have disqualified these veterans for the military had it been known when they entered the service. In addition to caring for veterans with hemophilia at the VAMC, she volunteers for Hemophilia of Georgia, taking overnight calls from any Georgia emergency room with a suspected hemophilia crisis.


   
   
 
 

After World War II, Atlanta’s VA hospital became one of the first VA hospitals in the nation to affiliate with a medical school. Since then, the bond has grown substantially, to the benefit of both institutions. Some 265 Emory faculty provide the majority of physician care in the center, and Emory clinician-scientists have made this facility one of the nation’s top VA centers for research. In 2010, research funding at this facility totaled $29 million and involved more than 500 projects directed at some of the most serious problems faced by veterans.

 


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Community Benefits Report Cover 2011