Late Breaking News
New State of the Art Facility Prepares for Military Patients
BETHESDA, MD—A new center, dedicated to research, diagnosis, and treatment planning for military personnel suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury and psychological health issues is set to begin taking its first patients this year.
The National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE), which is located on the campus of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, held its ribbon cutting ceremony June 24, more than two years after its groundbreaking ceremony held in June of 2008.
The new facility is designed to provide advanced services for diagnostics, initial treatment, and family education, among other things, for military personnel with TBI, PTSD, and/or complex psychological health issues.
“The confluence of TBI and psychological health issues is extraordinarily complex. Many of the warriors returning have not recovered significantly to return to duty, return to productive civilian careers, and most importantly, to return to their reconnection with their family and friends,” said Thomas J DeGraba, MD, FAHA, deputy director and chief of medical operations of NICoE, during a webinar held last month about the new facility.
The center is 72,000 square feet and is expected to take its first patients in late October or early November of this year, said DeGraba. The new center will contain state-of-the-art technology, including virtual reality capabilities.
New Center for Patients with TBI and PH Issues
NICoE will be unique in that it will take an interdisciplinary approach to helping patients, according to DeGraba. “Until this point, the medical community has been designed to treat patients in their own element … NICoE is being designed to be an interdisciplinary system in which the patients will be seen by all of our providers … ”
Patients who have returned from theater of operations with psychological health issues and TBI who are not recovering by conventional therapy will be referred to the NICoE. “We anticipate approximately 20 patients every two weeks coming to the NICoE with their families to be evaluated and treated through the treatment paradigm we have developed and designed.”
Beyond utilizing the conventional disciplines to help patients such as psychiatry, neurology, neuropsychology, NICoE will also offer complementary and alternative medicine.
DeGraba described NICoE as predominantly an outpatient facility. A Fisher House will provide housing for the family members of servicemembers who are participating in treatment.
A patient will typically come for a two-week stay and then return to the care of the primary care provider where their treatment plan and care will be carried out. NICoE staff will follow up with the patient when they leave NICoE through contact with the primary care physician and the patient.
DeGraba said that long-term follow up of the patient is essential in understanding how the patient has progressed so that NICoE can better understand what treatments are working optimally for the patients and their families.
In addition to the evaluation and treatment of patients, the center will also participate in research to further the understanding of treating patients. Patients can take part in research protocols and pilot studies on TBI and psychological issues.
DeGraba said that they plan to disseminate what they learn from their research to other military treatment facilities and civilian centers. “We also intend to be that hub for education, bringing people together to address the concepts of new research ideas and new treatment plans. Whatever information is gleaned will make it out to the military and civilian world to enhance the care of all patients with TBI and psychological health, whether they come to the NICoE or not.”
NICoE will also be participating in a national effort to create a national database for TBI and psychological health that is being developed in cooperation with NIH, DoD, VA, and CDC. “That national database will allow us to take the information that is captured through clinical and research endeavors at the NICoE and other federal and research partners, and compile that information to better understand and better know the [treatment] plans that work in our patient population.”
This new center was built with funds raised by the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (www.fallenherosfund.org). NICoE is adjacent to where the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is being constructed.