Points of Pride

Reprinted from PN April 2011

The PVA Research Foundation has awarded millions of dollars for research in applied and basic science.

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This month’s issue contains a feature article on the research grants PVA has awarded for the coming year. Many PN readers do not know PVA was one of the first—if not the first—major funding entities of research into spinal-cord injury (SCI). We provided funding for several years before formally establishing the PVA Spinal Cord Research Foundation (SCRF) in 1976.

SCRF was funded by PVA and managed by a formal board of trustees that met twice a year to review grant requests submitted on a preset schedule. Initially, the grants’ primary focus was for new researchers working in the area of applied and basic science and not established well enough to get funding from government agencies such as the Department of Health, etc. Funding could be for only one year or up to three years.

This process continued for approximately ten years, and the trustees noticed more and more requests for purposes that were worthy and had merit but were outside the science area—e.g., wheelchair seating pressure analysis. As a result, the PVA Education and Training Foundation (ETF) was created in 1986. It has been a worthy and proven program for work in wheelchair design, ergonomics, cushion design, etc.

Since its inception in 1976, the Spinal Cord Research Foundation (now called the PVA Research Foundation) has awarded more than $50 million for research in applied and basic science. Since the beginning of ETF (now the PVA Education Foundation), more than $6 million has been awarded. Although this sounds like a significant disparity, remember—funding for education and training was included in the SCRF budget until the separate ETF program was started. So, the actual amount for education and training would be greater if it were possible to break out the amount prior to 1986.

Regardless, the Paralyzed Veterans of America can be justly proud of its work in trying to find a cure for paralysis and, simultaneously, trying to make life—while looking for that cure—more comfortable and pain free by the support for education and training.

I have discussed the funding program as though it is exclusively a project of the national organization. However, each year, PVA’s chapters give significant amounts of money to PVA to fund either of the two foundations. Another group that can take just pride is the trustees of both foundations and the great staff that has provided tremendous support and work on behalf of our organization.

PVA chapters recognize that the work done by both foundations is valuable and will hopefully result in a cure for paralysis, whether as the result of trauma or disease. Although a great breakthrough isn’t visible at this time, constant work by the grant recipients will ensure that one day the magic breakthrough will take place and that just as polio, malaria, and other major maladies were eliminated, SCI/disease will also fall into that category.

Our organization can be proud of the work it has done for the past 35 years. As one of the pioneers of funding in the area, we have made a significant contribution to knowledge in the field of paralysis.

For a quick segue into another area, we are finally out of the wretched winter that this year has seemed more difficult and cold than is traditional. When I see 20 inches of snow in Oklahoma, freezing in Florida, and PVA chapters from Texas to Maine closing their offices because of temperatures or snow so deep staff could not get to work, it clearly has been a rough and cold period for several months.

Let’s get out and take the opportunity to participate in the activities we enjoy. The important thing to remember, whether you are able bodied or in a wheelchair, is that you will be using muscles and doing things you haven’t done for several months. Ease into the heavy activities or exercising before charging into something on the first warm day. 


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