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MIRECC Matters - Fall 2023

A publication of the VISN 5 MIRECC - MIRECC Matters - Putting Recovery into Practice

Meet Our New VISN5 MIRECC Investigator and Qualitative Methods Unit Director

Dr. Karen Besterman-Dahan

Dr. Karen Besterman-Dahan joined the VISN 5 MIRECC as a research investigator and the Director of the Qualitative & Mixed Methods Unit in May 2023. Dr. Besterman-Dahan earned her Ph.D. in Applied Biocultural Anthropology from the University of South Florida. Her prior degrees include a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics and a Master of Arts in Education with a concentration on adult education. Dr. Besterman-Dahan worked as a clinical and research dietitian prior to obtaining her Ph.D., specializing in oncology, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury and pediatrics. Once she completed her post-graduate studies, she began working at the Tampa VA as the only qualitative researcher, eventually building and directing a qualitative research core of 10 investigators and analysts. Dr. Besterman-Dahan has been active in research and evaluation related to community reintegration, rural health, and food security using mixed, qualitative and community engaged methods. She will be working with MIRECC investigators to optimize the use of these methods in their research and evaluation work.

Tell us about your area of research.

I have benefited from a varied academic and work history. I am also a “military brat” and I saw what I now I understand were reintegration issues and transition stress at a time when there were few resources and even higher stigma for help than there is now. All of these experiences have informed my research interests, many of which are around community reintegration, elements that make reintegration challenging (e.g., food security) and hard to reach populations (e.g., rural). A common thread running through is the use of community engagement and qualitative and mixed methods to ensure the relevance, fit and perspectives of the stories being told, and the strategies being suggested. I also have built partnerships which can be much more effective for insights and strategy implementation.

What studies/programs of research are you currently working on?

Currently, I am working on both ORD and operational projects. I have an HSR&D funded project called Enhancing Veteran Community Reintegration Research (ENCORE) which was designed to create a VA research agenda to improve the impact of VA policies and programs that support Veteran community reintegration. ENCORE has done tremendous work over the last few years which can be seen here Enhancing Veteran Community Reintegration Research (ENCORE) Project ( During this final year, we launched a quarterly ENCORE Veteran Community Reintegration Think Tank where researchers can present their project ideas for feedback to see how it aligns with the ENCORE agenda. I also have an Office of Rural Health funded project, Initiative to Promote Food Security for Rural Veterans. This project develops an initiative to promote food security in rural Veterans using innovative, evidence-based, stakeholder-driven strategies, building on my previous ORH project Addressing Food Insecurity in Rural Veterans. Additionally, my goal is for the qualitative and mixed core is to provide guidance and assistance to MIRECC investigators and research staff in conducting qualitative and mixed methods data collection and analysis in support of the MIRECC's current and future research activities.

What are the implications or potential benefits of your program of research for Veterans?

First of all, I am hoping to find ways and expand ways to use community engaged, mixed and qualitative methods to increase inclusiveness and ensure multiple perspectives are represented, and ensure strategies are stakeholder driven for fit and relevance and improved trust. Additionally, I am hoping that building partnerships with community organizations and state/federal agencies will help with implementation and dissemination of strategies, which ultimately helps more Veterans in hard-to-reach populations, including those who are not using VA services. Finally, I am interested in further establishing and supporting the use of rigorous qualitative and mixed-methods research within the MIRECC, expanding and improving the scope and quality of research and evaluation.

How can people get in touch with you if they have questions about your work?

I am remote from the MIRECC, so am not located in Maryland. At this time, the best way to get a hold of me is through teams messaging or email ( I will be getting a work phone soon and will update my outlook with that number as soon as it is available.


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