TERRY DULLUM — The Dullum File: One In A Million

It turns out that I’m one in a million. Well actually, one in about 840,000 so far.

That’s the approximately number of military veterans like myself who have volunteered for the Million Veteran Program or MVP. The goal is to enroll at least a million veterans.

It’s a national medical research effort funded by the Veterans Administration to learn how genes cause disease. I’ve always thought taking part in medical research would be interesting.

Researchers are using data to learn about cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, macular degeneration, Parkinson’s, posttraumatic stress disorder, osteoarthritis, suicide prevention and a host of other health concerns.

It’s hoped the research can lead to new and improved treatments, with fewer side effects.

The program is administered in Fargo by Kevin Krettner, a Navy veteran who for 20 years was an academic adviser at North Dakota State University. Kevin himself is also a volunteer in the program. In fact, the blood he submitted and analyzed in the program led to the discover that he has a rare blood disease, one that could have resulted in serious consequences for him had it not been found. Funny how things work out.

The MVP program was approved for the Fargo VA a couple of years ago. The pandemic shut it down for a time. Now it’s back.

Kevin explained the program to me and then had me sign a couple of consent forms. He told my medical information would not be shared anywhere else and that the VA is not looking to make “super soldiers” using DNA like mine, despite what some people may suspect.

Then he shut the door to his office, slapped a Be Back Soon sign on his door and walked me down to the VA’s blood lab, where I was to offer up some of mine. At home a few weeks earlier, I had filled out a questionnaire about my medical history. I’ll get another one in the mail in a few months.

The lab tech commented on the martini-flavored tropical shirt I was wearing that day. She told me she was once a bartender in Wyoming and that the only thing she liked about martinis were the olives.

Blood drawn, Kevin showed me to the VA’s front door, where he asked if I needed a lunch suggestion. (The VA doesn’t provide meal or gas money.) He offered up The Shack on Broadway, a few blocks away. It being Wednesday, it was chocolate cake day.

The MVP program is likely to go on and on, long after I’m gone — 50 or 60 years even.

More than content following my steak sandwich and with the day’s very last piece of The Shack’s famous chocolate cake safely tucked away in a styrofoam container in the back seat, Bob Marley sang to me on satellite radio all the way home.

All in all, it was a very satisfying day. Tomorrow I may fritter away the day watching TV and listening to rock ‘n’ roll, but today I DID something.

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