UT Southwestern, VA officials sign memorandum establishing dedicated enterprise for Gulf War Illness research in Dallas

Signing the memorandum of understanding Friday were: (front row, left to right) Dr. Alfred Gilman, provost, executive vice president for academic affairs and medical school dean, UT Southwestern; Betty Bolin Brown, director, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) North Texas Health Care System; and Dr. Kern Wildenthal, president, UT Southwestern. Witnessing the ceremony were: (second row) Dr. Robert Haley, chief of epidemiology, UT Southwestern; Joel Kupersmith, chief research and development officer, VA; Dr. Jonathan B. Perlin, Undersecretary for Health, VA; Jim Binns, chairman of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, VA; Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison; and Dallas businessman Ross Perot.

DALLAS — April 21, 2006 — Officials from UT Southwestern Medical Center and the Department of Veterans Affairs signed a memorandum of understanding today establishing a dedicated collaborative Gulf War illness research enterprise in Dallas, managed by UT Southwestern. 

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a longtime supporter of Gulf War research, facilitated the agreement and secured a $75 million appropriation over five years for Gulf War Illness research.   Under today's agreement, UT Southwestern, in cooperation with the Dallas Veteran Affairs Medical Center, will serve as the national research center for this research. 

"UT Southwestern's breakthrough findings helped Dallas become the site designated for this critical research," Sen. Hutchison said at a press conference at UT Southwestern University Hospital — Zale Lipshy.

Under the plan, $15 million will be allocated annually for the next five years, to establish a cohesive research program managed by
UT Southwestern. 

"These funds will be used efficiently and effectively to find better ways to diagnose, treat and help our veterans," said Dr. Kern Wildenthal,  president of
UT Southwestern.

Dr. Alfred Gilman, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at UT Southwestern and dean of UT Southwestern Medical School, will chair a process to award funding for Gulf War projects, ensuring excellence and efficiency in this research. Dr. Robert Haley, chief of epidemiology at
UT Southwestern and the nation's foremost expert in Gulf War Illness, will continue his groundbreaking studies of the illness with the hope that they will eventually lead to a treatment, and will continue to work with colleagues across the country to implement a cohesive research program.

Part of this program includes the formation of a Gulf War clinic at the Dallas VA Medical Center, to apply and hone diagnostic techniques and treatments developed at UT Southwestern research facilities. 

"We're thrilled to have everyone working together on this important project," said Dr. Haley. "By doing so, we envision that we can find scientific answers to questions surrounding Gulf War illness. These answers will be applicable to the illnesses in the general population as well, including patients exposed to chemicals and neurotoxins such as pesticides."

Dr. Jonathan B. Perlin, undersecretary for health at the VA, touted the collaboration between the Dallas VA and UT Southwestern as an important step toward restoring the health of afflicted Gulf War veterans.

Dallas businessman Ross Perot was also present for the signing of the memorandum. A grant from the Perot Foundation of Dallas in 1994 allowed Dr. Haley to begin his Gulf War research by studying a Naval Reserve construction battalion, also known as Seabees, who suffered from a number of unexplained disorders.

Dr. Haley discovered that their symptoms were not stress-related, as some had theorized, but a series of brain ailments following exposure to neurotoxins such as pesticides and sarin gas during the Persian Gulf War. In January of 1997 The Journal of the American Medical Association published three of Dr. Haley's research papers in a single-issue reporting these initial breakthroughs.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/neurosciences to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in neurosciences.


Media Contact: Katherine Morales

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