Three UCLA/VA researchers honored by Secretary of Veterans Affairs


Three UCLA researchers affiliated with the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System are among six to be honored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which has officially recognized the researchers for their yearlong work to advance medical care for veterans.

In celebration of National VA Research Week 2023, the Honorable Dennis R. McDonough, US Secretary of Veterans Affairs, recognized the following UCLA/VA investigators for their significant contributions to medical breakthroughs and supporting healthy outcomes for America’s veterans:

Dr. Donna Washington, Director, Health Equity Quality Improvement Research Initiative, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System

Dr. Donna Washington is the Director of the Health Equity-Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI), a National Partnership for Evaluation Center at VHA. Dr. Washington is a staff physician at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and a professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, Department of Medicine (JIM/HSR).

Dr. Washington works to meet the health care needs of marginalized and underserved populations and leads important research that identifies and breaks down barriers to health care access.

It has advanced research methods for studying racial and ethnic minority veteran groups; Reduced gaps in knowledge about the multilevel factors that drive racial and ethnic disparities in the veteran experience, and ultimately improved care and reduced mortality for all racial and ethnic minority groups of veterans, including those left out of most research studies because of their small populations, such as Native Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders.

Dr. Washington’s research shows how racial and ethnic disparities in health at the VA undermine our best models of care. Specifically, her research provided early warning signs to VA leadership about the devastating impact of the 2019 coronavirus pandemic on minority groups of veterans.

In addition, she served as principal investigator on the National Study of Women Veterans—the first population-based study of women veterans in 25 years—on their awareness and intractable barriers to use of VA services. This led to reforms to the military’s transition assistance program and other developments to help women access health care benefits, including the opening of a national call center dedicated to reaching out to women veterans. They earned it through their military service.

Dr. Washington has informed national, evidence-based policy on comprehensive care for women veterans through basic research studies and peer reviews. By linking survey data, organizational data, and outcomes data, she has been able to develop delivery models that improve patient experiences and health outcomes, particularly in mental health care.

In conclusion, Dr. Donna Washington epitomizes the VA’s commitment to delivering quality health care to all veterans regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or economic background.

Dr. Elizabeth Yano, director of the VA Women’s Health Research Network
VA Greater Los Angeles Health Care System

Dr. Elizabeth Yano is director of the VA Women’s Health Research Network. Dr. Yano is a Senior Research Scientist at Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D). Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health; Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine (GIM/HSR) at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and Director of the VA HSR&D Center for Healthcare Innovation, Implementation and Policy Research at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

Dr. Yano is a leading expert in VA women’s health research and a pioneer in using evidence-based care to transform the VA into a responsive research community. Her efforts to focus more on veterans’ priorities have led to higher quality care, improved patient experiences and better health outcomes.

As principal investigator and co-founder of the Women’s Health Research Network – created in 2010 to promote research focused on the unique needs of women veterans – Dr. Yano dramatically increased VA’s research capacity on women’s health at 76 VA facilities. .

She also developed the VA’s first Women’s Health Research Agenda, a roadmap for research action that brought together a national community of researchers.

Dr. Yano’s awards include the 2007 HSR&D Senior Research Scientist Award, the 2017 Brelow Lifetime Achievement Award, and the 2018 Disabled American Veterans Special Recognition Award for her impact on the care of women veterans. She has published more than 280 peer-reviewed, scientific papers; He has presented hundreds of scientific lectures and briefings; and has been continuously funded as Principal Investigator for over 30 years.

Dr. Yano has removed organizational barriers and facilitated holistic care for tens of thousands of women. Basic factors affecting care delivery and quality have been identified; and evaluated alternative models for delivering and improving that care. The impact Dr. Yano has had on the care of women veterans cannot be overestimated.

Dr. Nicholas Nichols, Director of Services, Radiation Oncology, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System

Dr. Nicholas Nichols is Chief of Radiation Oncology Services at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. Dr. Nicholas is Associate Professor in Residence and Vice Chair of VA Services in the UCLA Department of Radiation Oncology and a member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Nichols led not only oncology research, but also educational and clinical oncology, spearheading President Biden’s support of the VA Cancer Moonshot and the goal of cutting cancer death rates by 50% over the next 25 years.

Dr. Nichols and his team developed the first positron emission tomography imaging program at the Veterans Health Administration and demonstrated its value at the molecular level in planning radiation therapy for prostate cancer.

In addition to his research into the use of multiple tumor-specific therapies to treat prostate cancer, Dr. Nichols helped establish the GLA Prostate Cancer Clinical Research Group, a group of subject matter experts and consultants from the field of oncology.

In fact, Dr. Nichols serves on no fewer than 20 committees, boards, and task forces ranging from local to federal collaboration centers and influential organizations from academic institutions to national organizations. While Dr. Nichols’ primary focus is on prostate cancer, he also assists in the creation of actively managed portfolios for underrepresented groups at the VA, genomic databases, the Office of Research and Development, and more.

Although only in the first decade of his VA career, Dr. Nichols has already made his presence felt in this nation’s healthcare system, and all indications are that his significant impact in oncology so far is only the first. A few of the many to come.


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