Veterans Day is always one of the year’s most meaningful holidays to me. You may remember that early in the summer, I wrote a post announcing SWOG and The Hope Foundation’s new VA Storefront Support Program, an evolutionary step up from our VA Integration Support Program.

Here we are! I’m proud to be able to announce that our inaugural VA Storefront Support Program award will fund a new hub-and-spoke model built around the South Texas Veterans Healthcare System in San Antonio, led by investigators Drs. Paromita Datta and Michael Liss.

What’s particularly gratifying about the South Texas Veterans Healthcare System’s successful application for this grant is that in 2017, our earlier VA Integration Support Program provided key funding that allowed them to reengage in enrolling veterans at their facility to SWOG (and other National Cancer Institute) clinical trials after a lull of several years that had resulted from an earlier drop in support for NCI trials. That first use of our previous award was exactly what we intended.

South Texas has now taken that reengagement to the next level, pledging to serve as the administrative and organizational hub for multiple VA healthcare facilities in the region.

The first two spoke sites will be the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System (in Temple, Texas) and the VA North Texas Health Care System (in Dallas). Additional VA sites will be added to the group added as procedural details are worked out.

In thanking SWOG and The Hope Foundation for this support, the lead investigators on the new storefront grant, Drs. Datta and Liss, expressed the following:

“Texas has over 1.5 million veterans, and this is a special tribute to them as SWOG shows an investment to include our veterans in trials and removes barriers to make this happen. SWOG talks the talk and walks the walk on this Veterans Day. We consider this investment to stand on the shoulders of giants. Specifically, we give credit to SWOG and the Hope Foundation grant sites and also the NCI-VA NAVIGATE program that started the flywheel leading up to this storefront model. We would also like to give a very special thanks to the Temple and Dallas VAs for their collaboration and interest in being the initial spoke sites for our new storefront.”

In announcing the first storefront award, the SWOG VA committee also extended its gratitude to Sara Schiller, MPH, for her enormous contributions in developing the processes that have underpinned both the former VA integration program and the new VA storefront program. Sara led the effort to establish the first SWOG storefront, and her deep understanding of the VA, the NCI, and SWOG operations were integral in shaping the programs that are now in place.

I also want to extend truly heartfelt thanks to Stephen Bartlett, RPh, chair of the VA committee and leader of our veteran-focused efforts since 2013. Stephen believed in the vision I put forward when running for SWOG chair, and he almost single-handedly made it happen. 

Thanks to people like Steve and Sara, the highly successful collaboration between the VA and SWOG has given veterans with cancer, wherever they are in the US, access to cutting edge NCI clinical trials. We thank them for talking the talk and walking the walk!

I wish you a happy Veterans Day, and if you yourself are a veteran, thank you!

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