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James Peters dies at 57, led the EPVA since 1971.

James J. Peters, executive director of the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association (EPVA) in Jackson Heights, N.Y, died after a short illness on September 6, at the Manhattan Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New York City.

Peters, 57, joined EPVA in 1969 and became executive director in 1971, making him one of the longest-serving executive directors in the nonprofit sector.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y, Peters sustained a spinal cord injury in 1967 while serving as a second lieutenant, civil engineer at the United States Army Engineering College at Fort Belvoir, Va. Two years later he began his life-long career at the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association, starting as deputy executive director.

The next year, Life magazine published a story about the deplorable conditions facing paralyzed Vietnam veterans at the old Bronx Veterans Administration Hospital. Peters worked with the Life staff, arranging photos and suggesting patients for interviews. The publication of the article forced the VA to build a new Bronx Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) and to establish a stand-alone national Spinal Cord Injury Service.

In July 1971, Peters was appointed EPVA executive director. At that time, the association had four full-time employees and an annual budget of less than $75,000. In 1973, Peters established a partnership with the association's national organization, Paralyzed Veterans of America, to create PVA-EPVA, Inc., of Wilton, N.H., a direct mail premium fundraising corporation. Since its inception, PVA-EPVA, Inc., has raised more than $1 billion in donations for programs that serve spinal cord injured veterans. Today, EPVA maintains six offices with a workforce of more than 160 individuals.

He was elected vice president of the Paralyzed Veterans of America each year for 23 consecutive years, between 1977 and 2000.

Peters devoted his life's work to the improvement of health care for spinal cord injured veterans. Through his efforts, EPVA joined with local institutions, including the Mount Sinai Medical Center and the New York Medical College, to provide advanced methods of treatment to paralyzed veterans in the metropolitan area.

On the national level, Peters worked tirelessly and successfully to have spinal cord medicine designated an official sub-specialty by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He was instrumental in establishing a professorship in spinal cord medicine at Stanford University, and in revitalizing the American Paraplegia Society, the national organization of physicians who provide care to persons with spinal cord injury. Peters was also the founder of the American Association of Spinal Cord Injury Nurses, and the American Association of Spinal Cord Injury Psychologists and Social Workers.

Peters had a passionate commitment to spinal cord research. Through his leadership, EPVA once more joined with Paralyzed Veterans of America to build the PVA/EPVA Center for Neuroscience and Regeneration Research of Yale University, located at the West Haven VA Medical Center. At this facility, basic research is conducted toward a cure for spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis.

Peters helped to establish the Spinal Cord Damage Research Center at the Bronx VA Medical Center, where scientists investigate the impact of spinal cord injury on other body systems. During Peters' tenure at EPVA, the association provided $4.6 million to fund projects through PVA's Spinal Cord Research Foundation.

He also served on many national and local bodies involved in veterans and spinal cord health care. Peters was appointed by President Carter and reappointed by President Reagan to a Select Commission on Spinal Cord Injury. Peters served as special consultant to several chief medical directors in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Under VA Secretary Jesse Brown, Peters was appointed to a Task Force for Improved SCI Care. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Aging Research. In New York, Peters was a member of the State Disability Prevention Council and the State Spinal Cord Injury Research Commission.

Among many public honors, Peters received the 1986 Administrator's Award from the Department of Veterans Affairs in recognition of his outstanding leadership in veterans health care. In 1989, Peters was New York Medical College's recipient of the Terence Cardinal Cooke Medal for distinguished service in health care and in 1993, he was awarded an honorary Professorship in Urology from Katholieke Universiteit in Louvain, Belgium, for his efforts in improving care for persons with disabilities.
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Title Annotation:Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association
Publication:The Non-profit Times
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2002
Words:711
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