Big-Hearted Billionaire Gives $50 Million for Vets’ Healthcare

VA patients will get genetic testing funded by gift from wealthy donor 

| Donovan Slack, USA TODAY, March 12, 2019

| Washington – The Department of Veterans Affairs is partnering with a private health company to provide genetic testing that could help doctors prescribe medications and dosages targeted to an individual veteran’s health.

The program is funded by a $25 million donation from South Dakota philanthropist T. Denny Sanford and a matching amount from Sanford Health.

The initiative will launch in Durham, North Carolina, this year and will first focus on cancer survivors.

Organizers plan to roll it out to 125 VA sites by 2022 and provide testing to 250,000 veterans.

“I spent eight years in the Air Reserves at the Minneapolis Saint Paul Air Reserve Station, which gave me a window into the incredible sacrifices made by our nation’s service members and their families,” Denny Sanford said in a statement.

“I’ve invested in this unique partnership between Sanford Health and the VA as a tribute to those brave, selfless men and women.”

Genetic tests can help determine how individual patients metabolize – or break down – various classes of drugs such as antidepressants, anticoagulants, and opioids based on genetic markers. A faster breakdown means a patient may need higher doses to be effective and vice versa for slower metabolization.

“This screening test will help providers at the VA prescribe the most appropriate medications at the right dose for cancer survivors,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said. “Our goal is to continue delivering the best care possible for our nation’s heroes, and this partnership helps us do just that.”

Sanford Health representatives cast the VA partnership as the largest such testing effort in the country.

In recent years, other philanthropic ventures have cropped up to help fill the needs of veterans that aren’t being met by the VA, which has struggled in recent years with short staffing and other problems.

The Cohen Veterans Network was founded in 2016 by billionaire hedge fund manager Steven Cohen, who committed $275 million to the effort to set up dozens of mental health clinics. Read more. 

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