Meet Marlon Ferguson, CEO – NAVREF: Making a Difference for Veterans by Increasing Clinical Trial Access
On September 11-14, 2022, the VA National Association of Veterans’ Research and Education Foundation (NAVREF) celebrated their 30th Annual Conference in Pentagon City, VA. Greenphire was honored to participate as part of our ongoing clinical research partnership with NAVREF. The conference was highlighted by the introduction of the new NAVREF CEO, Marlon Ferguson, whom Greenphire interviewed below as 30 NAVREF non-profit research corporations (NPCs) locations are currently utilizing ClinCard.
Having worked in Washington, DC in VA Research Headquarters for 12 years previously, I understand the long history of VA Research’s landmark discoveries and the important contributions that clinical research provides for veterans’ care. It was an honor to meet and interview Marlon Ferguson and to continue to be a part of this partnership with NAVREF.
Access to Clinical Trials
Clinical research can offer veterans access to novel therapies. Do you have a specific message for veterans unfamiliar with NAVREF clinical research participation opportunities?
Veterans have invested in our great nation through their service. Participating in clinical research is yet another opportunity for continued service to their fellow veterans, family, and friends. The goal of clinical trials is to try to compare and/or find treatments for diseases that affect our nation’s veterans. Since many people in the country also have these diseases, veteran participation in clinical trials often lead to discoveries that improve and benefit the health of the United States population overall.
Uniqueness of Veterans
Why is access to clinical research important and unique for our veterans?
Only about half of all veterans needing mental health care receive it because of personal and social stigmas, provider workforce shortages and shortcomings, access, and logistic issues.
In the veteran ranks, personal anxieties and the “military readiness mindset” can discourage veterans from seeking the treatment they need. Many veterans are skeptical of the effectiveness of treatment they may receive and whether they may experience side effects.
Lingering military attitudes can also influence the veteran’s decision-making. In the military ranks, where physical and mental weakness is a liability, some veterans still grapple with seeking help that could be viewed as a sign of weakness.
Barriers to Veteran Participation in Clinical Trials
What other barriers prevent veterans from participating in clinical research?
As the COVID pandemic transitions into the endemic phase, healthcare providers still struggle to address staffing shortages. These shortages sometimes make it difficult for veterans to schedule timely appointments and obtain access to evidence-based practitioners, resulting in fewer veterans receiving the highest-quality care in the private sector.
Some veterans, especially in rural areas, struggle with the logistical aspects of making it to care appointments. Scheduling an appointment that works with the veteran’s schedule can hold them back, as can coordinating transportation to and from the provider. Also, many veterans need more information about research opportunities available. It’s sometimes a “hit-or-miss” where veterans stumble on research opportunities. I hope to improve our communications in this area through NAVREF.
NAVREF Clinical Research Goals
As the new NAVREF CEO, what is your vision for clinical research among veterans? What are some key goals?
NAVREF envisions a nation in which veterans receive the finest care based on innovative research and education with a mission to “advance the success of the VA-affiliated research and education corporations”.
NAVREF is committed to reforms that will increase the quality of care for veterans and has created the Access to Clinical Trials (ACT) for Veterans Initiative in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to accomplish this task. The initiative is focused on establishing a reliable system for initiating and conducting clinical trials efficiently within the VA. This goal was borne out of discussions between the Veterans Health Administration, Office of Research and Development (ORD) and NAVREF in 2017. Through this partnership with VA, NAVREF helps bring access to more high-quality clinical trials to veterans by streamlining processes, increasing efficiency, and reducing timelines for veterans to access clinical trial participation opportunities.
Greenphire is an important partner in this endeavor through ClinCard by making immediate payment to veterans for their participation in clinical trials following study visits. Immediate payment is an important “satisfier” to veterans for their voluntary participation as is the ease of administration of ClinCard among NPC research staff. For example, read how the Baltimore NAVREF NPC successfully used ClinCard to remove manual effort and increase security of their patient payments.
I look forward to the ongoing partnership with Greenphire as we work together to support clinical research among veterans.
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