A Nonprofit Organization That Supports Veteran Health Care

A Nonprofit Organization That Supports Veteran Health Care

Raising the Bar in VA Care

Established in 1991, VRFP conducts and supports extramural research and educational activities by collaborating with the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, private companies, government agencies, foundations, and academic institutions.

The University Drive campus houses VA Pittsburgh’s $35-million-dollar research program, which supports over 100 researchers conducting over 300 studies. The program also boasts four VA Research Centers of Excellence:

Human Engineering Research Laboratories

VRFP and the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) are proud to partner with the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation (CHNF) to provide an exceptional 10-week summer research experience for undergraduates with SCI.

The program, “Research and Design Experience for Undergraduates with SCI,” will provide students with valuable research, mentoring, and networking skills and will promote research opportunities in STEM fields for individuals with SCI. The program, which runs from May 18th–July 23rd, will be housed at HERL, located in the Bakery Square complex in Pittsburgh. For more information, click here.

Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center
Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center
Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion

Title 38 USC §7361-7366 authorizes VA medical centers to establish nonprofit research and education corporations to accept and administer private and non-VA federal funds in support of VA's research and education missions. The congressional intent in enabling these corporations is to provide VA facilities with a flexible funding mechanism for the conduct of research as well as staff and patient education.

Our Leadership

Board of Directors


Ali F. Sonel, MD, FACC, FACP

Chairman of the Board
Chief of Staff, VAPHS


Steven Graham, MD, PhD

Associate Chief of Staff for Research and Development, VAPHS


Karin McGraw, MSN, FACHE

Medical Center Director


Frank DeCarlo, Esq. Major/US Army

General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
Liberty Tire and Recycling


JoAnne Suffoletto, MD, MSc

Associate Chief of Staff for Education and Innovative Learning


Ronald Poropatich, MD

Colonel/Retired/U.S. Army
Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine

Executive Director, Center for Military Medicine Research, Health Sciences, University of Pittsburgh


Alan Smith

Major/Retired/U.S. Air Force
Congressional Veteran and Military Liasion


Marlon Ferguson

Executive Director
Veterans Place


John Innocenti, MBA

UPMC Presbyterian and Shadyside Hospitals


Patrick J. Doyle, PhD

Director Audiology & Speech Pathology Program, VAPHS

Associate Director of Research, GRECC



Alanna Caffas

Executive Director
Phone: (412) 360-3866
Email: Alanna.Caffas@va.gov

Administrative Staff


Shannon Austermann Hula, PhD

Grants and Contracts Manager
Phone: (412) 360-2456
Email: Shannon.Hula@va.gov


Jennifer Mock

Administrative Support Clerk
Phone: (412) 360-2403
Email: Jennifer.Mock3@va.gov


Laura Thompson, CPA

Director of Finance
Phone: (412) 360-2125
Email: Laura.Thompson2@va.gov