In partnership with America’s Veterans, VA is on a mission to advance medicine and improve care for all those who served our country.
VA’s Million Veteran Program (MVP) was launched in 2011. It is a national research project designed to advance precision health care by learning how genes, lifestyle, and military experiences and exposures affect health and illness. With more than 870,000 Veterans enrolled as of February 2022, it is one of the world’s largest genetic research programs.
Army Veteran Kafi Joseph is one of those enrolled Veterans. “I joined the Million Veteran Program because I serve as an EMT – as a volunteer EMT,” she said. “And I know the importance of having representation and advocacy in medicine. For me personally, as a woman – and a woman of color, a black woman – and recognizing that certain things present differently, my DNA will help with research and maybe pinpoint things that are specific to people in my group.”
One million Veterans could mean study of any kind of health condition
Genetic research requires large numbers of people from all backgrounds to participate. Those numbers help reveal small changes or differences in DNA that affect people’s health or certain illnesses. VA decided on one million Veterans for the study under the premise that if at least one million Veterans would agree to share their DNA and health information, researchers could eventually study nearly any kind of health condition affecting any Veteran.
Additionally, if Veterans came from all different backgrounds – gender, race, ethnicity, location, etc. – this would help the research apply to everyone.
“It’s very important that we expand that footprint of diversity to the extent that we can,” said Dr. Mike Gaziano, MVP co-founder and co-principal investigator. “Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it helps us understand the genetics of disease.”
MVP boasts one of the most diverse cohorts of any genetic research program in the world. “We have almost 18% Black and about 7% Hispanic,” noted Dr. Sumitra Muralidhar, MVP co-founder and program director. “Because of the large numbers, we have even made some discoveries about genetic markers associated with chronic kidney disease and heart disease with blacks and Hispanics in some cases.”
MVP has also helped uncover new findings about post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and COVID-19. Thanks to a partnership with the Department of Energy, MVP uses supercomputers and artificial intelligence to better predict health risks.
As Gaziano notes, “The Million Veteran Program is attempting to not only improve the health of Veterans, but actually improve the health of all humanity.”
To enroll, Veterans must complete three steps:
- Provide consent, including allowing access on an ongoing basis to your VA health records if you receive care at VA. Researchers using your health information will not have access to personal information like name, date of birth or social security number.
- Give a blood specimen, either in-person or via an at-home self-administered blood collection kit that is then mailed back to MVP.
- Complete occasional online surveys, including a baseline and lifestyle survey.
Veterans do not need to receive VA health care to join MVP. Any Veteran can join online at mvp.va.gov or by calling 866-441-6075 to schedule an appointment at their nearest MVP clinic.