Promoting research partnerships 

to improve veterans’ health

Media Relations

NAVREF Media Contacts

For press inquiries, please contact:
Hawk Tran
Phone: 301-656-5005 ext. 101
1717 K ST NW
Suite 900
Washington, DC 20006

NAVREF Office:

  • 21 Sep 2017 12:43 PM | Hawk Tran (Administrator)

    Non Profit Association Honors Excellence

    Washington, D.C. - The National Association of Veterans’ Research and Education Foundations (NAVREF) held its third annual awards event on September 11th, honoring NAVREF members and staff nominated by their peers for demonstrating excellence in support of research and education for veterans. The awards luncheon was hosted by NAVREF CEO Rick Starrs at The Linq Hotel on the Strip in Las Vegas in conjunction with NAVREF’s 25th Anniversary Conference.

    The 2017 winners included Ms. Priscilla West of the Veterans Research and Education Association of Norther New England (VERANNE), who was awarded NAVREF’s prestigious Barbara West Award. As a special treat, the award’s namesake, Ms. Barbra West, was on hand to present the award.  Other awardees included Ms. Alanna Caffas, Executive Director of the Veterans Research and Education Foundation of Pittsburgh and Mr. Hawk Tran, NAVREF Operations Officer.

    Ms. P. West was recognized for her outstanding service and dedication to her nonprofit corporation (NPC) and NAVREF, serving on the NAVREF Board of Directors for X years and as the Board Chairperson for the last two years. Under her direction, VERANNE has been a leader for growing a NPC education program and has obtained funding for high quality, important educational activities for Veterans. In addition, VERANNE’s projects have received press attention and helped to raise awareness of the work of her NPC.  As Chairperson of the NAVREF Board, one of her first duties was to identify new staff leadership. Once the new CEO was in place, Ms. West moved forward the vision of expanding access to clinical trials for Veterans through the NPCs. 

    Ms. Alanna Caffas took home the NAVREF Board of Directors Award for a wide variety of contributions to her local nonprofit corporation and the NAVREF community.  She established a centralized clinical trials center (CTC) which has become a model for the rest of the country and has provided many Veterans with additional research related treatments and interventions to which they would not otherwise have had sufficient access.  She developed a clinical trials management system adopted by NAVREF and other NPCs as a best practice.  Ms. Caffas participated as an active and integral member of advisory work groups and served as co-chair of the conference program committee for NAVREF’s 25th annual conference.  In all these endeavors, Ms. Caffas demonstrated integrity, commitment, excellence, and selfless service to others.

    Mr. Hawk Tran was awarded the Best Practice and Innovation Award for consistently offering contemporary solutions to address the needs of NAVREF members.  Mr. Tran has been at the forefront of improving NAVREF’s communication with and among the members and the public.  In the past year alone he introduced new survey and polling tools, established a webinar series, organized countless virtual meetings, and most significantly, overhauled the NAVREF website to be more responsive to member needs.  His innovative web development strategy cut costs by more than 50%. 

    NAVREF congratulates each of the award winners for their hard work and dedication supporting the VA research and education missions, and we wish them future success in all their endeavors.

  • 18 Sep 2017 2:12 PM | Hawk Tran (Administrator)


    AVAHO and NAVREF Announce Partnership

    Washington, DC, September 18, 2017 – The Association of VA Hematology and Oncology (AVAHO) and the National Association of Veterans’ Research and Education Foundations (NAVREF) are pleased to announce an alliance between the two organizations.  This relationship will help promote VA sites and clinicians to the clinical trials industry while creating a more efficient process from identification of appropriate study sites to smoother study implementation.

    “The members of AVAHO believe veterans deserve greater access to innovative oncology/hematology clinical trials in VA medical centers,” said Julie Lawson, Executive Director of AVAHO. “We know NAVREF shares our passion for veterans and by partnering we can extend our reach and ability to impact the lives of more veterans.”

    “We are thrilled to be joining forces with AVAHO,” said Rick Starrs, CEO of NAVREF. “We share common values and common goals, ultimately seeking to improve the health of veterans. This partnership with AVAHO will bring NAVREF closer to achieving our vision of a nation in which veterans receive the finest care based on innovative research and education.”

    About AVAHO
    AVAHO is a nonprofit organization with the mission of providing a forum for interaction with Hematology/Oncology professionals who are dedicated to caring for our nation’s veterans.  Current membership comprises medical oncologists and hematologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pharmacists, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, social workers, cancer registrars, and other allied health professionals.  AVAHO facilitates cooperation among VA staff to enhance professional careers and improve patient care. Visit

    About NAVREF

    Formed in 1992, the National Association of Veterans' Research and Education Foundations (NAVREF) is the 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization of research and education foundations affiliated with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers. These nonprofits, also known as the VA-affiliated nonprofit research and education corporations (NPCs) are authorized by Congress to provide flexible funding mechanisms for the conduct of research and education at VA facilities nationwide. Currently, NAVREF has 76 members.


  • 6 Sep 2017 6:20 PM | Hawk Tran (Administrator)

    NAVREF Changes Leadership

    Names New Board of Directors Chairperson

    Washington, DC - The National Association of Veterans' Research and Education Foundations announced today that Ms. Robin Rusconi has been selected to serve as the Chairperson of the NAVREF Board of Directors effective September 10, 2017. Ms. Rusconi replaces Priscilla West who is rotating out of the position at the conclusion of her two-year tenure.  Ms. Rusconi is the executive director of the Midwest Biomedical Research Foundation in Kansas City, MO.

    “I am honored to assume this responsibility and believe passionately in NAVREF’s mission to advance the success of the VA-affiliated research and education corporations,” stated Ms. Rusconi.  “Priscilla did a superb job as the Chair and I hope to bring the same dedication and spirit of collaboration to the role.  I look forward to working closely with the membership to deliver highly valued services that benefit veterans.”    

    Before leading MBRF, Ms. Rusconi served in various roles at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, culminating as the Director of Research Administration and Project Management.  She earned her Juris Doctorate from the University of Kansas School of Law and her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Kansas.

    Under Ms. West’s leadership, NAVREF conducted a national search to select a new Chief Executive Officer and forged strategic relationships across the biomedical research industry.  Ms. West will continue to serve on the NAVREF Board and remains the executive director of the Veterans Education and Research Association of Northern New England based in White River Junction, VT. 

    Click here for the full press release. 

  • 5 Jul 2017 10:28 AM | Hawk Tran (Administrator)

    The Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) announces today that the National Association of Veterans’ Research and Education Foundations (NAVREF) is the latest subscriber to ACRP’s Site License program for clinical research training.

    The program provides NAVREF members access to ACRP’s full catalog of online clinical research training programs.

    With 20-plus programs included in ACRP’s eLearning curriculum delivered on a state-of-the-art Learning Management System, NAVREF members now have direct access via a site license to one of the most well respected and highest quality suite of training programs available on the market.

    The proprietary, NAVREF-branded hosting environment not only provides cutting-edge clinical research training, but administrator control of user and learner records.

    “We are thrilled to work with NAVREF as the latest organization to license the full suite of ACRP eLearning training programs,” says Jim Kremidas, ACRP Executive Director. “NAVREF is an outstanding organization with a true commitment to quality and we’re honored that they trust ACRP to provide an additional element of training for their members.”

    “We’re excited to partner with ACRP to provide this terrific learning opportunity to clinical research professionals associated with NAVREF and our member nonprofit corporations,” said Rick Starrs, NAVREF Chief Executive Officer.

    “NAVREF is offering this free training to ensure site staff have the tools they need to conduct safe and high-quality research focused on improving the health of veterans.”

    ACRP’s eLearning programs are developed with the distinct goal to drive performance improvement for those engaged in clinical research. Each program delivers interactive material aimed at enhancing human subject protection, data quality, and regulatory compliance for organizations of all size within the clinical research space.

    This article was a jointly produced by NAVREF and ACRP and also appears on the ACRP website here.

  • 3 Apr 2017 5:08 PM | Hawk Tran (Administrator)

    Non Profit Association Seeks Broader Impact

    (Washington, D.C.) - The Board of Directors of the National Association of Veterans' Research and Education Foundations announces the appointment of Stephen R. Conafay to the NAVREF Board as a Class B Director. Mr. Conafay is the sole principal at The Conafay Group, a government relations and management consulting firm that specializes in representing biomedical companies.

    “We are thrilled to have Steve join our board,” said Board Chair Priscilla West. “His experience, expertise, and passion for supporting veterans will be tremendous assets to the board and the 80 VA-affiliated nonprofit research and education foundations that comprise our membership.” Mr. Conafay is a veteran Washington, D.C. government affairs executive with decades of experience in non-dilutive funding, federal affairs and public policy. Mr. Conafay is a lawyer and a decorated Vietnam veteran. He served as an infantry platoon leader and was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal and the Army Commendation Medal, among others.

    Mr. Conafay has a deep association with the US military. His father served in World War I and then worked for the Veterans Administration for almost 30 years. His son John served honorably in the Air Force. “My emotional attachment to the military is one thing, but I believe my perspective as a lawyer, pharmaceutical executive, Washington lobbyist, public relations executive, and small business owner who has close ties to the biotechnology industry will provide some seasoned and imaginative viewpoints to achieving NAVREF’s mission.”

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