By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 8, 2013 – The Defense Department is committed to providing the best medical care and recovery for service members with traumatic brain injury, DOD’s top doctor said in a statement issued yesterday.
Following a 60 Minutes segment on the treatment of traumatic brain injury that aired May 5, Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said all service members will receive specialized care for any type of TBI, from mild concussions to severe head injuries that require “extensive specialized care at one of our research facilities for the rare instances.”
Woodson said DOD is grateful to military and private sector leaders who understand TBI’s impact on service members, help identify appropriate treatment, and help the military obtain the resources “to build and sustain additional world-class medical treatment and research facilities.”
Woodson also said the department appreciates “the relationships we have cultivated with members of academia, philanthropic efforts and within our Military Health System, which have ensured that DOD’s National Intrepid Center of Excellence is an additional highlight to our long line of exceptional medical research facilities.”
NICoE was constructed with philanthropic donations and is staffed by DOD personnel, which represents an “important new model in public-private partnership,” Woodson said.
Located on the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center campus in Bethesda, Md., NICoE brings in leading academic and military researchers to collaborate on the “nexus of TBI and psychological health conditions” that affect military readiness and public health, Woodson said.
Coming initiatives will further broaden TBI research, treatment and education as facilities and programs come online, he said.
These initiatives include:
-- NICoE is expanding with nine satellite clinics situated on military installations. They are Camp Lejeune, S.C.; Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Belvoir, Va.; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Carson, Colo.; and Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, Texas.
-- DOD will work aggressively with colleagues in the Veterans Affairs Department, National Institutes of Health, and the civilian medical community. Woodson said such collaborations help the military “better understand how to prevent, mitigate, detect and treat our people who suffer from TBI.”
-- Research findings will be rapidly translated into clinical policy to ensure service members receive the most up-to-date, evidence-based medical care following a concussion.
-- Another goal is to reduce the stigma of TBI through partnerships, such as the formalized agreement made in August 2012 between the Army and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The agreement pledges work on both sides to improve awareness of brain injuries, reduce the stigma of TBI, and change the culture surrounding such injuries on the battlefield and in the locker room.
-- The first brain tissue repository has been created to address the underlying mechanisms that cause brain injury and disabilities in service members with TBI. The repository is kept at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, also on the Walter Reed campus.
“Although our work has been underway for years, we are still in the early stages of beginning to unlock the mysteries of how the brain responds to traumatic events,” Woodson said.