Research Day 2016 - James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital - Tampa, Florida
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James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital - Tampa, Florida


Research Day 2016

James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital researchers highlighted their work for staff members and Veterans

James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital Health Science Specialist Andrea Spehar explains her research project on risk factors for Veterans' fall and injuries from wheelchairs and scooters to Dr. Prasad Kulkarni, JAHVH medical service, during the hospital's Research Day activities May 24.

By Ed Drohan
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Members of the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital Research Division highlighted the ways they’re working to improve Veteran’s lives during the annual VA Research Day event May 24.

Researchers showed off dozens of their projects in the hospital auditorium, explaining their work and findings to Veterans and staff alike. The event was designed to spotlight the hospital’s research activities and give visitors the chance to interact with the researchers who are actually doing the work, said Dr. Bob Campbell, JAHVH acting chief of research.

The hospital has about 200 ongoing research projects at any given time, Campbell explained.

“We have at least 100 investigators and about 500 research staffers,” Campbell said. “This event gives everybody a chance to talk to the researchers, find out why they do it, their passion about it.”

While the highlighted research projects ran the gamut from a study that is looking at the effects of cinnamon on fat cells and the resulting implications for obesity, to patient safety studies and research on Gulf War Illness, they all had one thing in common. They’re all designed to benefit the Veterans and improve their health care and overall well-being.

One of the research projects being highlighted was a study of patients in wheelchairs and scooters who experienced falls and injuries. As part of the research, Health Science Specialist Andrea Spehar followed 741 Veterans for a year, checking with them each month to see if they had any falls or injuries related to their wheelchair or scooter use, and discussing factors, such as their health at the time of the incident, that could have contributed to the fall.

One finding that surprised the researcher was that Veterans who used knapsacks on the backs of their chairs or scooters had a much higher incidence of falls than Veterans who didn’t use the bags. The results of this research can help providers educate patients in ways to prevent falls in the future.

Another highlighted research project with the potential to drastically improve the lives of some amputees is the DEKA robotic arm. Dr. Gail Latlief explained that the arm, which is now undergoing testing in patients’ homes, is a tremendous leap forward in the field of prosthetics.

Most robotic prosthetic arms available for patients today have very simple controls that are limited to allowing the user to open and close the hand to grasp objects. The DEKA arm uses new sensing devices that pick up electrical impulses from the skin to allow the user to operate the arm in a number of ways – to include rotating and flexing the wrist – to offer a more natural range of motion.

While some of the research may not have as much potential to directly impact individual patients like the DEKA arm, all are working toward the goal of positively affecting the treatments and programs to improve the health of Veterans.

“We want everybody to see the wide variety if things we’re involved in,” Campbell said.

The mission of the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital Research and Development (R&D) program aligns with the mission of our hospital: To discover knowledge, develop VA researchers and health care leaders, and create innovations that advance the healthcare of our veterans and the nation. For more information on the JAHVH Research Program, go to or the Tampa Research and Education Foundation site at


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