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VA Research: A Promise for a Brighter Tomorrow

A colonel and Veteran smile and bump together fist and prosthetic hand

Fred Downs Jr., a Vietnam Veteran and former chief of prosthetics and sensory aids for VA, wears the DEKA prosthetic arm as he shares a light moment with Col. Geoffrey Ling of the Defense Advances Research Projects Agency. Photo by Emerson Sanders

by Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer
Monday, May 19, 2014

Army Veteran Artie McAuley lost his arm in an automobile accident 40 years ago.

Today, he wears the remarkable DEKA Prosthetic Arm and you can watch him here wrapping a present and putting toothpaste on a toothbrush. (Right column, third video.)

Small things for you and me but major moves for Artie thanks to a joint collaboration between VA Research and the Department of Defense.

Research has made it possible for Artie to live his personal motto: “Hope is necessary for recovery.” And as Christopher Fantini points out, “His hope for others became his own reality.” Fantini is the Lead Prosthetist at the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System.

Artie agreed to join the program testing the DEKA arm because he wanted to help researchers get it right for future Veterans who may need it and soon discovered it changed his life dramatically.

Artie may see the realization of his efforts soon as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the DEKA Arm System on May 9, paving the way for the device to be manufactured, marketed and made available in the VA health system.

Another great example of “VA Research — Making a Difference,” the theme of this year’s National VA Research Week, May 19-23, designed to call attention to the many achievements of VA researchers and the vital role they play in advancing medical science and providing high quality care for Veterans.

 His hope for others became his own reality. 

None of the many VA research breakthroughs would be possible without the Veterans who have volunteered to participate in the studies. Whether it’s helping to find cures for illnesses or helping to improve VA health care for all Veterans, those who volunteer to take part in research deserve special thanks.

Here’s another example of VA Research and Development turning hope into reality: the Milwaukee Power Project: Veterans helping Veterans. (Video on the top right.)

“Everybody wanted to lose weight.”

VA researchers at the Milwaukee Healthcare System teamed up with Veteran Service Organizations to tackle hypertension.

The researchers enrolled 404 Veterans from 58 Veteran Service Organizations in the program. Participants in the program reported more self-monitoring of blood pressure and overall, blood pressure decreased significantly.

According to Navy Veteran James Helminski, who participated in the study, “Everybody wanted to lose weight but everybody needed a little boost. The peer pressure was part of the success rate. If your buddies weren’t there working at it, it wouldn’t have been as successful as it was.”

VA research is improving Veterans’ lives and offering a promise for a brighter tomorrow, exploring new ways to treat thyroid cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, prostate cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease).

VA is a Leader in Many Areas of Research

VA research is a national asset that benefits Veterans as well as the entire nation by moving medical science forward. VA investigators play key roles in developing devices and techniques that revolutionized health care — such as the cardiac pacemaker, the CAT scan, liver and kidney transplants. Today, VA is a leader in many areas of research, including AIDS, mental health, genomics, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, infectious diseases and spinal cord injury.

To learn more about VA Research and events marking this year’s National VA Research Week, visit and