To support innovative research and education initiatives that improve the health and well-being of Veterans.

Our History


The Minnesota Veterans Research Institute (MVRI) was incorporated in 1989, just one year after Congress passed legislation authorizing the creation of VA-affiliated non-profit corporations. The purpose of the legislation was to create a mechanism whereby non-VA federal grants and research contracts with medical device and pharmaceutical companies could be administered on behalf of VA-based research scientists.


The first study to be administered by the Foundation was the Department of Defense Veterans Brain Injury Program, led by Barbara Sigford, MD.


MVRI was originally led by Allen Levine, PhD, deputy ACOS/Research. JoAnn Tallman was its first employee. Penny Gannon, PhD then led it for 5-6 years in the early 1990’s, followed by Mike Levitt, ACOS/Research.


The first full time Executive Director, Clay Tenquist, was hired in 2009. During his tenure MVRI became MVMREF—the Minnesota Veterans Medical Research and Education Foundation. This name never really caught on so in 2017 the name was changed again to CVRE—the Center for Veterans Research and Education (CVRE).


CVRE currently administers grants from the DoD and other federal agencies, the medical device and pharmaceutical industries and foundations. Additionally, it supports a variety of research and educational programs, including on-site conferences, seed grants, and professional development opportunities for VA employees.


CVRE is incorporated in the State of Minnesota and operates exclusively for scientific and education purposes under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. CVRE is governed by a Board of Directors per established bylaws.

Members of the Board of Directors (2018)

Kent Crossley MD, MHA

Dr. Crossley is Chief of Staff at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center and Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota.

Hanna E. Bloomfield MD, MPH

Dr. Bloomfield is Associate Chief of Staff for Research at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center and Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota.

Steven Kooren, BS

Mr. Kooren, a US Army veteran, is Treasurer and SVP of Financial Planning and Analysis at Schwan's Company.

Patrick Kelly MPH, FACHE

Mr. Kelly, a US Navy veteran, is Director of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System.

Ezgi Tiryaki MD

Dr. Tiryaki is Associate Chief of Staff for Education at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center and Associate Professor of Neurology and Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Minnesota.

Jason Meszaros MBA

Mr. Meszaros, a US Army Veteran, is a senior manager for technology projects in the Minnesota Twins organization.

Philipp Dahm MD, MHSC

Dr. Dahm is a urologist at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center and a Professor of Surgery at the University of Minnesota.

John D. Baker, JD

John D. Baker, JD, a decorated Veteran of the US Marine Corps, currently teaches criminal justice studies at Saint Cloud State University.

Mitchell W. Granberg, JD

Mr. Granberg, a decorated US Army veteran, is Deputy General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer for Optum, a UnitedHealth Group Company.

Diana J. Burgess, PhD

Diana J. Burgess, PhD is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School and a Core Investigator and Director of the Advanced Fellowship Program in Health Services Research at the Center for Care Delivery and Outcomes Research (CCDOR), a VA HSR&D Center for Innovation, at the Minneapolis VA Healthcare System. She has had a continuous, externally-funded program of research on healthcare disparities, with a focus on pain. She is presently the Principal Investigator on two federally funded clinical trials testing non-pharmacological interventions for Veterans with chronic pain, funded by VA Health Services Research and Development and the Department of Defense.

Casey S. Gilmore, PhD

Casey S. Gilmore, PhD, is a Research Scientist in the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.

Professional Staff

Pat Widboom
Interim Executive Director

Pat holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Southwest State University in Marshall, MN and is a Certified Public Accountant (Active Status). Pat began her career in public accounting and has 20 years experience in CFO/lead Finance roles in various healthcare related nonprofits in MN and WI. She gained experience in financial management and reporting of Federal, State and Private grants at Planned Parenthood as well as two Federally Qualified Health Clinics in Minneapolis. In her free time Pat enjoys hiking, knitting, amateur flower gardening, and traveling.

Cody Arnold
Office Manager and Staff Accountant

Cody joined CVRE in 2017 as the Office Manager where he actively supports the business accounts of all major projects and enthusiastically works with principal investigators and study coordinators. Prior to joining CVRE, Cody worked in customer service for a large healthcare organization. A native of Minnesota, Cody earned his A.S. degree in Accounting from North Hennepin Community College. He is currently working on earning his B.A. degree in Accounting, Finance and Economics from Metropolitan State University (MN). He is married and has 2 children.

Laurie Shekels
Grants and Contracts Administrator

Laurie graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a chemistry major and did her graduate work in biochemistry at the University of Minnesota. She came to the Minneapolis VA in 1992 and has worked on projects looking at treatments for Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, Hurler's syndrome and hepatocellular carcinoma. Laurie joined CVRE in March of 2019. Outside of work, Laurie enjoys reading, puzzles, boating with her husband and spending time with her cats and dogs.