(ATHENS, Ohio — June 2, 2014) The AMVETS organization and Edison
Biotechnology Institute recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of
a unique collaboration that has propelled Ohio University students
into the world of medical research on diabetes-related projects, led
by John Kopchick, a longtime faculty member at the Ohio University
Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. The initiative has funded
32 students with nearly $250,000 in grants over the past decade.
But numbers tell only part of this story.
“I’ve been in AMVETS for 45 years, and I believe this project is
probably the most important thing we’ve done as an organization,”
said Jim King, a former AMVETS national commander and one of several
representatives from the group who spoke at the emotional
anniversary celebration in Athens.
King and others cited a grim statistic: One in four U.S. veterans
has diabetes – a rate triple that of the general population,
according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The incidence is
even higher among Vietnam War veterans.
The AMVETS Diabetes Institute, as the grant program is called,
aims to chip away at the problem by engaging students in research
early in their academic careers so they can join the fight against
one of the nation’s most serious health issues. Of the 32 scholars
funded so far, about half have gone to graduate school and half to
medical school. Two are now practicing physicians.
To qualify to be an AMVETS scholar, students must hold at least a
3.0 grade point average and have a veteran in their family, or be
one themselves. For Kopchick, principal investigator at the Edison
Biotechnology Institute who helped launch the AMVETS scholars
program, the family research that students put into discovering
relatives’ military service is just as important as their work in
“This (AMVETS) grant is unique in a lot of ways,” said Kopchick,
an Ohio University Distinguished Professor of molecular and cellular
biology and Goll-Ohio Eminent Scholar. Kopchick points out that 100
percent of donations to the AMVETS scholars fund goes to support
students, avoiding administrative costs associated with traditional
grants. The fund is also one of the few that connects undergraduates
with research opportunities.
The idea for the program hatched from a 2002 conversation between
Kopchick and members of AMVETS Athens Post 76, one of whose family
members had diabetes. Was there a way that AMVETS could help with
diabetes research? The national organization got behind the effort
with a $15,000 donation to launch the scholars program in 2004, and
it’s been growing ever since.
Ten years later, Kopchick and a handful of veterans watched as
AMVETS scholars gave presentations on their diabetes-related
research and relatives’ military service.