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Patriotic Article
Military
By Sarah Fortney

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Ceremony Dedicates Center of Excellence
(June 28, 2010)

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BETHESDA, Md. (NNS) -- A dedication ceremony was held June 24 to commemorate the completion of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) in Bethesda, Md.

The new facility, located on the grounds of the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC), will be dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment and research of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other psychological health disorders amongst service members, veterans and their families.

Fallen Heroes Fund, right cut the ribbon to official open the National Intrepid Center of Excellence during a dedication ceremony at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, Md., June 24, 2010. Defense Department officials in attendance included Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James E. Cartwright, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli, and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, among others. DoD photo by Cherie Cullen
Kenneth Fisher, Chairman of the Fisher House Foundation, left, and Arnold Fisher, Honorary Chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, right cut the ribbon to official open the National Intrepid Center of Excellence during a dedication ceremony at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, Md., June 24, 2010. Defense Department officials in attendance included Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James E. Cartwright, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli, and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, among others. DoD photo by Cherie Cullen
 The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund began efforts to raise funds for NICoE more than two years ago and celebrated its ground-breaking ceremony June 5, 2008. Numerous donors contributed to the fund, many of whom attended the dedication ceremony. The guest list also included a number of military, government officials and members of the media from across the country.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, health care providers have come to identify the effects of TBI and psychological health issues on service members, preventing them from re-engaging in the military or civilian careers and from reconnecting with their family and friends, said Dr. Thomas DeGraba, deputy director and chief of medical operations for NICoE.

Roughly two years ago, Congress set up the Defense Center of Excellence to bring together the many different scopes of expertise that the Defense Department has

to offer.
"TBI can affect many different aspects of cognitive function, everything from disturbances in language to spatial orientation to short-term and long-term memory," said DeGraba. "We needed a place that brings to bare all the resources in medical care for both TBI and psychological health to help understand the person as a whole."

This interdisciplinary approach allows all members of the patient's treatment team to collaborate and, therefore, better coordinate the patient's treatment plan.

"When a warrior and family leaves the NICoE, they leave with an individualized plan for improvement and long-term follow up," said DeGraba. "The center's mission is not just to identify the problems, but to provide those warriors with the strategies to recover."

The two-story, 72,000 square-foot facility uses state-of-the-art technology to offer individuals the most detailed diagnosis, said Dr. James Kelly, director of NICoE.

Magnetic resonance imaging, for one, will allow researchers to look for characteristics of brain injuries.

The center, which has approximately 100 staff members, will also use magnetoencephalography (MEG), said Kelly. The MEG can look even deeper into the structure of the brain than an electroencephalograpy (EEG). While an EEG determines whether pathways in the brain are working properly, an MEG can see how it's working and how it's changed as a result of a TBI, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and stress.

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Aaron Mankin, a wounded warrior, applauds during the National Intrepid Center of Excellence dedication ceremony at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, Md., June 24, 2010. DoD photo by Cherie Cullen
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Aaron Mankin, a wounded warrior, applauds during the National Intrepid Center of Excellence dedication ceremony at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, Md., June 24, 2010. DoD photo by Cherie Cullen
 "It's an opportunity to look in greater detail than we've ever been able to," said Kelly.

In addition, the center will use positron emission tomography (PET) scans, which will allow physicians to look at the functional areas of the brain to see how an injured brain functions differently as opposed to a non-injured brain.

The other unique aspect of NICoE is that it incorporates alternative strategies into care that would otherwise be considered main stream, said DeGraba.

The holistic medicine approach uses treatments, including meditation, music and art therapy, yoga and spiritual exercises.

At any given time, there will be about 20 patients at NICoE, each remaining at the center for an average of one to two weeks, said Kelly. Each year, the center will have the capacity to treat a total of approximately 500 individuals.

"[NICoE] is also for families affected by these invisible wounds," said Kelly.

Warriors will be encouraged to be accompanied by their family members and will stay at the new NICoE dedicated Fisher House, which is now currently under construction on base, said DeGraba.

The home has the capacity to house 21 families at a time, allowing them to be a part of a loved one's care while they're in treatment at the center.

"The Fisher House provides us the ability to evaluate the family as well as the warriors, and that way we can begin to initiate family therapy, and that helps strengthen the family unit," said DeGraba. "If we can create that stabilization in their personal lives, it will dramatically increase the likelihood of recovery and improve their capability in their work and active duty lives. We're really excited about that."

In addition, there will be a tutoring program in place for children of the families staying at the Fisher House to help them stay on top of their studies, said DeGraba.

"Providing [the families] that peace of mind is essential," said DeGraba.

Guests of the dedication ceremony caught a glimpse of the center, touring the facility and listening to subject matter experts speak about all that NICoE has to offer.

More than 1,700 people, including wounded warriors, Defense Department officials, military leaders, government representatives, donors and many more attend the National Intrepid Center of Excellence dedication ceremony at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, Md., June 24, 2010.
More than 1,700 people, including wounded warriors, Defense Department officials, military leaders, government representatives, donors and many more attend the National Intrepid Center of Excellence dedication ceremony at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, Md., June 24, 2010. DoD photo by Cherie Cullen
 "It's a celebration of the work the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund has done in both the funding for this magnificent building and the building itself," said Kelly. "It's a gift from the American people and those who donated to the fund so that we can actually gear up and starting doing the work."

Capt. Michael Hendee, chief of staff for NICoE, added that the facility will fit well with integration efforts that are taking place on campus at NNMC, particularly in terms of manning.

NICoE staff will be made up of civil service members, contractors and uniformed personnel from the Navy, Army, Air Force and Public Health Service, said Hendee.

"The mission of the NICoE is to be the leader in advancing world class psychological health and traumatic brain

treatment, research and education," said Hendee. "It will be imperative for us to continue working with all the branches of the military services, other federal agencies and academic partners."
Hendee said he is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of NICoE.

"It is truly an honor and privilege to be a member of this great team and to take part in such a historic event," said Hendee.

DeGraba echoed the sentiment, stating that it has been a privilege to be a part of the team that has developed NICoE from its inception through its completion.

"To be that place of hope, healing, discovery and learning, that place where the next generation of innovative care occurs, it's tremendous," said DeGraba. "The journey has really just begun now...We're now at the edge of the beginning of our new capabilities to better understand those things that are preventing our wounded warriors from regaining that quality of life."

By Sarah Fortney
National Naval Medical Center Public Affairs
Copyright 2010

Reprinted from Navy News Service

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