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War Related Illness and Injury Study Center

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NJ WRIISC Fellowships

 

More Information

  • For more information about the fellowship program, email: wriisc.nj@va.gov
    or call: 1-800-248-8005.

Overview

The WRIISC Fellowship Program at the East Orange Campus of the VA NJ Health Care System is an interdisciplinary program that trains physicians, allied health professionals (e.g., psychologists, nurses), and research scientists to become leading researchers in clinical and applied basic post-deployment health research. Funded by VA’s Office of Academic Affiliations, this advanced fellowship offers a unique opportunity to be trained in the health concerns most pertinent to combat Veterans with difficult to diagnose conditions. The WRIISC is an innovative center dedicated to addressing the health concerns of Veterans after their return from deployment to Iraq, Afghanistan, as well as from prior conflicts. A unique aspect to our center is that researchers and clinicians often work side by side translating findings from applied basic research into novel treatment paradigms and using clinical findings to better understand the cause or symptoms and disease.

WRIISC fellows have the opportunity to explore their research interests in a variety of fields including clinical psychology, health care behavior, human physiology, rehabilitation, education and service delivery. Current fellows collaborate on a range of studies including work on mild traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder, and reintegration after deployment, and use survey, physiological, and psychophysiological methods. The two-year fellowship is sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and involves 25% time in the Center’s clinical activities; 75% time devoted to research projects including developing the Fellow’s own research program.

WRIISC fellows build upon a variety of clinical and research backgrounds. Recent NJ WRIISC alumni come from PhD, MD, and RN/PhD programs, who have all gone on to successful clinical, research, or academic careers. Depending on funding and program of research, WRIISC fellows may also remain at the center as faculty members. Our alumni are also doing well across a myriad of settings, including primary care services, mental health clinics, and university centers. Over recent years, 71% of our alumni have chosen careers in the VA system following their 2 year fellowship.

The NJ WRIISC Fellowship site is linked to two other WRIISC fellowship sites (Washington, DC and Palo Alto, CA) for didactic, academic, and research efforts. Fellows also lead and participate in Grand Rounds and journal clubs on a monthly basis. Applicants to our program must have a PhD, MD, or other advanced level degree and be a U.S. citizen. Salary is commensurate with the level of post-graduate training. The VA is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

For more information about the fellowship and application process, please email wriisc.nj@va.gov.

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Core Content Areas

Consistent with the WRIISC’s mission and faculty expertise, the fellowship may be divided into the following core content areas through which prospective fellows may align their interests:

  • Health and Neurobehavioral Research

    • Increasing Veteran access to benefits and services is a major part of the VA’s mission. Accordingly, a major research focus at WRIISC is healthcare utilization of Veterans. Areas of focus include demographic factors that affect healthcare utilization, ethnic and racial disparities in health care, and barriers to effective help seeking in diverse Veteran populations. In addition, there is an emphasis on supporting VHA’s initiatives for Patient Centered Care (PCC) through the development of research and clinical projects that demonstrate new and integrative models of care that are easily translatable and can be implemented long-term across VA hospitals.
    • Several psychological conditions that are pervasive in the Veteran community have unknown biological causes. By finding the neurological basis of these psychological disease states, we can better diagnose and treat our veteran community. Areas of focus include chronic fatigue syndrome, mild traumatic brain injury and Parkinson’s disease. We employ a variety of scientific techniques including MRI, immunoassay and high performance liquid chromatography . Due to our diverse faculty and post-doctoral fellow population, the WRIISC is uniquely suited to use these biological techniques in combination with clinical psychological evaluation to treat our Veteran population.

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  • Integrative Physiology

    • Through a multi-disciplinary approach, our goal is to achieve a more complete understanding of human physiology and associated mechanisms of regulation and adaptation. Specific research lines include brain blood flow and balance function and how these are affected by blast exposure, gulf war illness, spaceflight, aging and pathological conditions such as stroke. In addition, current efforts also evaluate the effects of deployment-related exposures, aging and neurological injury on cardiopulmonary and autonomic function. Considerable technologies are available to address these research questions including full vestibular testing, human rotational chairs designed by NASA, transcranial Dopplers, ambulatory metabolic and blood pressure systems, electrocardiography, and other physiological monitoring equipment.
    • Additional research projects are attempting to develop objective indicators of disease illness and/or injury that are common in the Veteran population. For example, we currently do not have reliable biomarkers to distinguish Veterans with and without traumatic brain injury nor do we have good diagnostic indicators for Veterans suffering from Gulf War Illness. By analyzing blood and saliva samples we are hoping to better understand these disease mechanisms.

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  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine

    • Current efforts involve the integration of mind-body skills, such as qigong, acupuncture and meditation, with traditional treatment modalities to enhance quality of life in Veterans post-deployment. Specific Veteran populations of interest include those with pain and fatiguing illness. Active projects include randomized interventions to demonstrate modality efficacy in symptom alleviation and enhanced quality of life.

 

NJ WRIISC Fellows

Apollonia Fox, PhD
Apollonia Fox, PhD
  • Position: Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Team: Research and Clinical Services

Apollonia Fox, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the NJ WRIISC. She received a dual-major PhD in Speech and Hearing and Neuroscience in 2014 from Indiana University. Her NIH-supported doctoral research investigated the specific mechanisms of interaction between the inner ear (vestibular system) and networks in the spinal cord involved in postural regulation. At the WRIISC, Dr. Fox’s research explores the connections between the vestibular system and the autonomic nervous system.

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Dennis A. Fried, PhD, MPH, MBA
Dennis A. Fried, PhD, MPH, MBA
  • Position: Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Team: Research and Clinical Services

Dr. Dennis A. Fried joined the WRIISC in 2015 as a Postdoctoral Fellow. For the past several years, Dr. Fried taught graduate-level courses in Epidemiology at the Rutgers School of Public Health where he received the 2015 Excellence in Teaching Award. Dr. Fried earned his BA (History) from Rutgers College, an MBA from the Rutgers Graduate School of Management, an MPH from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and a PhD from the Rutgers School of Public Health. Dr. Fried’s research focuses on broad determinants of health among VA disability compensation-seeking veterans aimed at understanding veterans’ health-related needs, as well as the potential barriers to service-connected disability compensation. Dr. Fried’s experience encompasses complex survey analyses as well as the modeling of veterans’ health care utilization and costs, based on large administrative data sets.

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Lauren M. Greenberg, PhD
Lauren M. Greenberg, PhD
  • Position: Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Team: Research and Clinical Services

Dr. Lauren M. Greenberg joined the WRIISC in 2015 as a clinical health psychology research fellow after receiving her PhD from Drexel University and completing her internship in Behavioral Medicine at VA Palo Alto. The overarching goal of her research is to improve the lives of those suffering from chronic health conditions through the development and implementation of evidence-based intervention. Her graduate research centered on social-problem solving theory, including a pilot randomized controlled trial examining the efficacy and feasibility of Problem-Solving Therapy (PST) for patients with uncontrolled high blood pressure. At the WRIISC, Dr. Greenberg collaborates on projects examining Veterans’ views of their health conditions and assessing the efficacy of clinical interventions to improve Veterans’ health functioning. Dr. Greenberg’s clinical activities include the delivery of cognitive and behavioral interventions (e.g., PST) to Veterans with Gulf War Illness as part of her laboratory’s clinical research, as well as comprehensive psychological assessments of post-deployment Veterans as part of an integrated clinical team.

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Jennifer Presnall-Shvorin, PhD
Jennifer Presnall-Shvorin, PhD
  • Position: Clinical Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Teams: Clinical and Research Services

Dr. Jennifer Presnall-Shvorin joined the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) at the VA New Jersey Healthcare System in 2016 as a clinical post-doctoral fellow, working in both research and clinical areas. Dr. Presnall-Shvorin specializes in the treatment and assessment of patients with complex clinical concerns. She received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Kentucky, where she focused on assessment and treatment of personality disorder. While on internship at VA Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven, she trained in the treatment of PTSD, as well as in pain management, smoking cessation, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. At the WRIISC, she delivers Problem-Solving Treatment as part of a randomized controlled clinical trial for Veterans with Gulf War Illness, conducts quality control assessment on study adherence, and is developing a group intervention for Veterans with multiple unexplained physical symptoms. In the coming year, Dr. Presnall-Shvorin will be conducting psychological assessments and neuropsychological screenings as part of an interdisciplinary team, as well as continuing her training in leadership, program development, and program evaluation.

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Edward C. Shadiack III, DO
Edward C. Shadiack III, DO
  • Position: Clinical Fellow
  • Team: Clinical Services

Dr. Edward Shadiack is a Polytrauma/TBI Clinical Fellow at the NJ WRIISC. He joined the WRIISC in August of 2014. He received his Bachelors of Science at Rutgers University in 2005 and his Doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – School of Osteopathic Medicine in 2009. Dr. Shadiack completed a medical internship and Family Medicine residency at UMDNJ-SOM in 2012. Upon completion of his formal medical training, he worked in private practice before coming to the WRIISC. He is board certified in Osteopathic Family Medicine, and has a special interest in Osteopathic Manipulation. He has achieved additional certification in Medical Bariatrics through the American Board of Bariatric Medicine. At the WRIISC, Dr. Shadiack works with the clinical team, investigating medically unexplained symptoms, assisting in evaluation of exposure concerns, and helping patients manage chronic health conditions. In addition, he works with the research teams, bringing with him a clinician’s perspective.

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