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War Related Illness and Injury Study Center

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Visiting Scholar Program

The Oscar Auerbach Visiting Scholar Program



Dr. Oscar Auerbach, a physician
scientist who studied and
proved the relationship between
smoking and the development
of lung cancer.
Courtesy: George F. Smith Library of the
Health Sciences/Rutgers University

The Oscar Auerbach Visiting Scholar Program is intended to support VA investigators who are motivated to understand the incidence and prevalence of cancers (and/or other potential health conditions) among AHOBPR participants. This program is intended to provide multi-year support to highly accomplished VA investigators who are working to pursue research questions pertaining to long-term health outcomes (i.e., cancer or other noncommunicable diseases) among Veterans with military environmental exposure. Additionally, support for dedicated staff (e.g., data analyst) may be requested to ensure project success.

The Visiting Scholar Program is named in honor and memory of Dr. Oscar Auerbach, a physician scientist who most notably conducted seminal pathological studies on the relationship between tobacco smoke and lung cancer. His work also included studies on exposures related to asbestos and mining of uranium. Dr. Auerbach’s pioneering work was featured prominently in the 1964 U.S. Surgeon General Report, which officially linked smoking to lung cancer. This work was conducted at the East Orange Campus of the VA New Jersey Health Care System—and the current site of the AHBPCE

Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry

The AHBPCE, through the Health Outcomes Military Exposure program office, manages and oversees the AHOBPR and is chiefly responsible for the integrity and use of these data. The AHOBPR was established by Public Law 112-260 (Sec. 201) requiring VA to establish and maintain a registry comprised of information to ascertain and monitor health effects of military exposure. VA established the AHOBPR in 2014, and hundreds of thousands of Veterans are currently enrolled and have completed a self-assessment health and exposure questionnaire. A smaller subset of these individuals has also completed an optional health evaluation

Visiting Scholar Program

The Oscar Auerbach Visiting Scholar Program is intended to support VA investigators who are motivated to understand the incidence and prevalence of cancers (and other potential health conditions) among AHOBPR participants. The Visiting Scholar will collaborate with the existing AHBPCE team, including the AIMES Collaboration, who possesses unique access, expertise, and understanding of the AHOBPR data. Additionally, support for dedicated staff (e.g., data analyst) will be provided to ensure project success.

The exact topic and research question(s) must be proposed as part of the application process. Examples of potential research questions may include the following:

  • Linkage of AHOBPR registry participants to mortality, cancer incidence, or other chronic disease records
  • Identification of Veteran cohorts disproportionately affected by cancer incidence, mortality, or cancer risk prevalence
  • Assessing the association of deployment-related exposures on cancer mortality or incidence, or on other chronic diseases among Veteran cohorts, including the AHOBPR cohort
  • Other related topics that related to the follow-up of the AHOBPR registry cohort

In addition to pursuit of the research question(s), the Visiting Scholar will have the following opportunities as part of the AHBPCE: 1) participate in existing AHBPCE-initiated or supported projects, 2) lead and/or participate in national webinars, journal clubs, and related scholarly activity, 3) respond to ad-hoc inquiries from VA senior leadership as a subject matter expert, and 4) assist AHBPCE in recruiting future Visiting Scholars, center faculty, and scholars.

Funding and Support

The AHBPCE will commit salary support for a minimum of 50% effort per year for the two-year Visiting Scholar Program with option for renewal on an annual basis. Requested support >50% may be approved if justified by project scope. The AHBPCE will also provide travel support for the Visiting Scholar for in-person consultation with collaborators, professional meeting attendance, and an annual visit to the AHBPCE. Other project-related costs and publication fees may also be provided upon request.

Visiting Scholar Eligibility

Individuals interested in applying to the Visiting Scholar Program must generally meet all eligibility criteria for VA research investigators (VHA Handbook 1200.15). It is therefore expected that applicants will hold a PhD, MD, or equivalent terminal degree and maintain a VA appointment. Further, it is expected that applicants will have a strong understanding and demonstrated experience utilizing VA (e.g., CDW, CIPHER, ILER) and non-VA (e.g., SEER, Medicare) data sources. A letter of support from the applicant’s Service Chief and/or Associate Chief of Staff for Research (ACOS/R) from the local VA station must be included with application materials to confirm sponsorship. Sponsors are expected to be responsible for facility management of AHBPCE funds and provide local resources (e.g., GFE, PIV access, etc.).

Application Requirements

1. Cover letter/personal statement (≤ 2 pages) describing:

  • Subject matter expertise and experience
  • Interest in topic matter
  • Goals for Visiting Scholar Program
  • Experience conducting epidemiological or clinical research with health data

2. Sponsorship letter from local Service Chief and/or ACOS/R endorsing application and confirming VA appointment, and two letters of professional recommendation.

3. Research proposal (≤ 3 pages) describing:

  • Specific Aims
  • Methods
  • Expected Outcomes and Impact

4. CV/Biosketch and Other Support

5. Budget page and justification

Pre-submission inquiries may be sent to AHBPCE Co-Directors Drs. Michael Falvo and Anays Sotolongo (, All application materials should be compiled into a single PDF document and emailed to with “Visiting Scholar Program Application” in the subject line. Application materials should be received by the key dates below.

Key Dates

  • April 15, 2024: Full proposals due by 11:59 p.m. EDT
  • June-July, 2024: Virtual interviews scheduled for priority applications
  • August 1, 2024: Funding decisions sent to applicants
  • October 1, 2024: Virtual Scholar Program commences

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Should the research question focus on any specific group of Veterans?
Priority will be given to applications focusing on deployed Veterans with exposure to airborne hazards and burn pits.

2. Will health outcomes other than cancer be considered?
Yes. Submissions focusing on non-communicable diseases are welcome.

3. Does the Visiting Scholar Program support human subjects, animal study, or other experimental costs?
The Visiting Scholar Program is intended to provide salary support for protected time to answer proposed research question(s). Applicants are encouraged to contact the AHBPCE prior to submission if seeking to request non-salary costs (except relevant travel and data analytic associated costs if necessary).

4. Does the 3 page limit on the research proposal include references?

5. Is there a preference on whether to include a CV or Biosketch?
Either is acceptable.

6. Should I include biosketches of all key personnel involved in the project?
The Visiting Scholar Program is designed to support a single investigator pursuing a specific research question(s).

7. For any other questions, please feel free to contact us directly: