Veteran staff members from the Center for Women Veterans (CWV) joined other VA women leaders in enrolling the Million Veteran Program for research in Washington, D.C., earlier this year.

They are: Julia Kelly, CWV operations manager; Missina Schallus, CWV communications manager; Elizabeth Estabrooks, deputy director; and Ana Claudio, national & international outreach manager.

Army Veteran Kayla Williams had three friends diagnosed with breast cancer in the same year. She wondered if their time in combat had anything to do with their illnesses.

Was there something in the artillery or firearms they used? A toxic chemical in the air they breathed or the water they bathed in?

Williams is now the assistant secretary for VA’s Office of Public and Governmental Affairs. She’s not alone in wrestling with questions like these.

VA’s Chief of Staff, Army Veteran Tanya Bradsher, served multiple deployments in Korea, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. She also wonders if her overseas service may someday affect her health.

Thanks to VA’s Million Veteran Program, researchers can begin to look for answers.

VA leads the way in understanding Veteran’s health

In May 2011, a national research program was born at VA. It studies how military exposures, genes, and individual lifestyle affect a Veteran’s health. Now a decade later, more than 845,000 Veterans have enrolled in the Million Veteran Program (MVP), making it the world’s largest genetic research program of its kind.

By collecting DNA from as many Veterans a possible, along with information on their health, lifestyle and military experiences, researchers are beginning to answer important questions like:

      • Why does a certain treatment work well for some Veterans but not others?
      • Why are some Veterans at greater risk for developing an illness?
      • How we can prevent certain illnesses in the first place?

With Veterans’ data, cutting-edge genetic breakthroughs are published every year. The goal is to one day give Veterans specialized care with targeted treatments and preventions based on their genetics and medical history.

The future of women’s health is in your genes. We need your help.

While there are roughly two million living women Veterans, around 76,000 are MVP enrollees. This makes it hard to guarantee new treatments, screenings and other breakthroughs work just as well in women as for men.

“If I can say anything to women Veterans, it’s participate,” said Estabrooks.

She joined other VA women leaders like Williams and Bradsher in rolling up her sleeve and donating a vial of blood to MVP research. In a series of short videos, Estabrooks and other VA women leaders share their reasons for enrolling.

“If you are woman Veteran, or a Veteran of any gender, I would invite you to view this as an extension of your service,” said Dr. Jennifer MacDonald, Army Veteran and senior advisor to the acting Deputy Secretary at VA. She, too, joined MVP and shared her story here.

“I’m very hopeful that the Million Veteran Program offers an opportunity to ensure that women Veterans like me know what else we should be concerned about,” Williams added in her testimonial video. “It’s just a tremendous honor and a heavy obligation to know that I can serve other women by taking part in this.”

How to enroll in VA’s Million Veteran Program

Fifteen minutes and a blood draw are all it takes to make a lasting difference. You do not need to be enrolled in VA health care to sign up. Learn more and enroll today at or call 866-441-6075.

For more questions about MVP, explore its FAQ page or speak with a staff member at 866-441-6075.

Related blog post: VA’s Million Veteran Program seeking female Veterans for genetic-based studies.

By Claudia Gutierrez is a public relations specialist for VA’s Million Veteran Program

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Published on Aug. 13, 2021

Estimated reading time is 3.1 min.

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  1. Irma Cooper August 18, 2021 at 2:14 pm

    I do not see any Black Veteran Researchers on this Leadership team? Why?

  2. Kellie E Praydis August 13, 2021 at 6:57 pm

    Since when does the Department of Veterans Affairs give a rats *** about women? #Metoomilitary #NSGAHomestead #Metoo in my home as a spouse Virginia Beach, Me2NVAs #Daytonvamc #Visn10
    Blacklisted for whistleblowing to OIG.
    Badge of Honor.
    Kellie E (Jonas) Praydis CTRSN 1983 1987
    B.S. Political Science with Honors @ODU Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities.
    Spouse 1987 2002 CWO2 Robert A Praydis
    18 years of state Blue Cross Blue Shield medical records. 4 years active duty. 18 years Tricare. 2002 to present VISN8 and VISN10
    My mother the Teamster organizer filed complaints vis a vis NSGA Homestead with Senator Howard Metzenbaum and Congressman Tony P Hall’s offices. #Papertrails You and your “medical professionals” at that third world shithole Dayton VA have damaged my reputation, and permanently disabled both and physically, mentally. Stop allowing students from substandard universities use us as their cadavers.
    How much more am I expected to take from these “medical professionals”

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