War Related Illness and Injury Study Center
NJ WRIISC Fellowships
- For more information about the fellowship program, email: VHAEASWRIISCNJ@va.gov
or call: 1-800-248-8005.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
A. Behavioral Health Research Laboratory (BHRL). Lisa McAndrew, Ph.D., Principal Investigator
The BHRL is comprised of psychologists, post-doctoral psychology fellows, psychology externs and research staff working together to gain a better understanding of Veterans’ views and experiences related to their post deployment health concerns. We hope to apply this knowledge to develop evidence-based behavioral health interventions to improve Veterans’ overall quality of life and optimize health outcomes. The BHRL offers fellowships in 2 tracks: the Research Track and the Clinical-Research Track.
- Behavioral Medicine and Post-Deployment Health – Research Track
- This fellowship is designed for individuals seeking the skills and training to become an independent investigator in the field of behavioral medicine. The fellow works in Dr. Lisa McAndrew’s Behavioral Health Research Laboratory (BHRL) conducting research with Veterans suffering from chronic medical conditions including chronic pain, Gulf War Illness, medically unexplained illnesses (such as chronic multisymptom illness [CMI] and long-COVID), symptoms related to military and environmental exposures, and other complex health conditions. The lab’s current studies focus on understanding Veterans’ views of their health and developing innovative patient-centered behavioral interventions to improve quality of life and health outcomes. Current quantitative research aims include evaluating different models of care delivery for Veterans with chronic illness to address barriers impacting care; assessing effectiveness of a health coaching intervention on managing complex pain symptoms; and examining the mechanisms of change in an intervention designed to reduce suicidality in Veterans with chronic pain and suicidal ideation. In addition, qualitative research includes examination of how and for whom the studied interventions are effective; we are also coding patient-provider communication during session to identify elements of communication that result in improved adherence to recommendations and health outcomes.
- Fellows devote the majority of their time to research-related activities including writing manuscripts for submission in peer reviewed journals, presenting findings at national conferences, preparing grant applications, and leading the development and implementation of research studies. A smaller portion of time is spent providing clinical interventions and assessments as part of randomized clinical trials. The fellow also provides crisis intervention as needed as a member of the BHRL distress response team and the WRIISC mental health team.
- Behavioral Medicine and Post-Deployment Health – Clinical-Research Track
- This fellowship is designed for individuals seeking the skills and training to become an independent psychologist with expertise in health psychology and behavioral health. The fellow works in Dr. Lisa McAndrew’s Behavioral Health Research Laboratory (BHRL) conducting research with Veterans suffering from chronic medical conditions including chronic pain, Gulf War Illness, medically unexplained illnesses (such as chronic multisymptom illness [CMI] and long-COVID), symptoms related to military and environmental exposures, and other complex health conditions. The lab’s current studies focus on understanding Veterans’ views of their health and developing innovative patient-centered behavioral interventions to improve quality of life and health outcomes. Areas of special focus include behavioral treatment for chronic pain and CMI, suicide treatment/prevention for Veterans with chronic pain, evaluating different models of care delivery for Veterans with chronic illness, and patient-provider communication.
- Clinical-research fellows devote the majority of their time providing behavioral health interventions for Veterans with chronic pain and complex symptoms as part of clinical research studies.The fellow also provides crisis intervention as needed as a member of the BHRL distress response team and the WRIISC mental health team, and may participate in psychological assessment as part of comprehensive interdisciplinary evaluations. A smaller portion of time is spent on research activities such as writing manuscripts for submission in peer reviewed journals, presenting data at national conferences, or developing/implementing a small research or a quality improvement project.
- To request additional information about these fellowships, please contact Lisa.McAndrew@VA.gov
B. Cardiorespiratory Physiology Laboratory (CPL). Michael Falvo, Ph.D., Principal Investigator
The CPL at the WRIISC and Airborne Hazards Burn Pits Center of Excellence (AHBPCE) provides diagnostic cardiopulmonary services (i.e., cardiopulmonary, pulmonary function and bronchoprovocation testing) in an outpatient setting and conducts a broad program of human cardiopulmonary research. Our research program investigates mechanisms of dyspnea, fatigue and exercise intolerance in the context of environmental and occupational exposures. We focus primarily on the coupling of external (pulmonary) and internal (cellular) respiration to understand pathophysiology. The CPL invites applicants to apply for a Fellowship position:
- Fellowship in Cardiopulmonary Physiology
- The goal of our Fellowship is to develop outstanding scientists and equip them with the requisite skills and expertise to study difficult-to-diagnose post-deployment health conditions affecting the cardiopulmonary systems. Our lab is currently focused on studying distal airway mechanics and function, pulmonary circulation during exercise, blood-based bioenergetics and imaging approaches (CT and fMRI) to dyspnea and fatigue.
- For additional information, please contact Dr. Falvo at Michael.Falvo@VA.gov.
C. Mental Health Research and Program Development Unit. Alejandro Interian, Ph.D., Principal Investigator
The Mental Health Research and Program Development Unit conducts clinically-oriented research within the mental health service of VANJHCS. The current program of research focuses on high-priority areas in Veteran mental health, including health psychology, suicide prevention, and use of technology to improve access-to-care. The mental health research unit is comprised of psychologists, post-doctoral psychology fellows, social workers, basic research scientists, and research staff.
Current and recent projects have focused on neurocognitive assessment, mindfulness-based interventions, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and telehealth-based treatments. These areas of research are being applied to improve assessment and treatment of depressive disorders, health-related psychological disorders, and suicide. Opportunities are offered within these programs to receive training in evidence-based intervention and neurocognitive assessment. Research training will cover a range of quantitative methods, such as clinical trial evaluation, predictive modelling, and computational modeling. Training can also be provided in qualitative methods for assessing intervention response and patient perspectives.
The Mental Health Research and Program Development Unit offers fellowships in 2 tracks: the Research Track and the Clinical Track.
- Mental Health Research and Program Development Unit – Research Track
- The research track fellowship will emphasize training focused on accomplishing key goals for a career in research. Training will include carrying out research with existing data sets with the aim of translating this work into scientific presentations and publications. Research training will also be provided through participation with ongoing projects. In addition, trainees will be supported in developing and carrying out early phases of research within their area of interest. To support the trainee in their research development, ample mentoring opportunities will be available from our team of researchers, all of whom have active current projects, previously collected data, and new projects under development.
- Mental Health Research and Program Development Unit – Clinical Track
- The clinical track fellowship will emphasize clinical duties within these projects. Opportunities will also be available from other VANJHCS mental health services, with clinical work on areas ranging from trauma to coping with chronic pain. In addition, the clinical track will involve assessment training that is part of the general WRIISC program. A smaller portion of time will be devoted to research training, such as assisting with manuscript preparation, presentations, and data analysis.
- For additional information, please contact Dr. Interian at Alejandro.Interian@va.gov
D. Tailored Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Post-Deployment Clinical Care
In addition to fellowships that are offered by the various WRIISC research laboratories, it is possible that a candidate may co-create a fellowship with WRIISC clinicians. This requires that the candidate’s fellowship goals can be met within the scope of the clinical work performed by WRIISC clinicians.
In the past we have had clinical fellows design their fellowships around developing expertise in the areas of: neuropsychological evaluation of Veterans with CMI; medical assessment of Veterans with medically unexplained post-deployment health concerns; and evaluation of environmental exposure concerns related to deployment and military service.