USA — Center Offers Hope to Heal War’s ‘Invisible Wounds’

WASHINGTON — The 72,000-square-foot Nation­al Intre­pid Cen­ter of Excel­lence opened here today with the promise of being a world leader in the research, diag­no­sis and treat­ment plan­ning for the sig­na­ture brain injuries and psy­cho­log­i­cal con­di­tions of wound­ed war­riors.

The $65 mil­lion cen­ter, built by pri­vate dona­tions to the Intre­pid Fall­en Heroes Fund on the grounds of the Nation­al Naval Med­ical Cen­ter, will use “extra­or­di­nar­i­ly new and com­pre­hen­sive approach­es” to pro­vide the next gen­er­a­tion of care to ser­vice­mem­bers and their fam­i­lies, Dr. Thomas DeGra­ba, the center’s deputy direc­tor, told reporters at a media event yesterday. 

“This is tru­ly an out­stand­ing gift that will be a trea­sure for the Amer­i­can peo­ple … and the world at large,” DeGra­ba said. “This cen­ter is an instru­ment of hope, heal­ing, dis­cov­ery and learning.” 

The cen­ter is one of six cre­at­ed under the Defense Cen­ters of Excel­lence for Psy­cho­log­i­cal Health and Trau­mat­ic Brain Injury, estab­lished in 2007 to lead Defense Depart­ment work on brain sci­ence and treat­ment in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Vet­er­ans Affairs Depart­ment, as well as aca­d­e­m­ic and oth­er institutions. 

Navy Rear Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, com­man­der of the Nation­al Naval Med­ical Cen­ter, said that insti­tu­tion, the Intre­pid Cen­ter, and Wal­ter Reed Army Med­ical Cen­ter, will col­lab­o­rate in the research and diag­no­sis of brain injuries, includ­ing the elu­sive mild TBI, and psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems, and cre­ate indi­vid­ual treat­ment plans for ser­vice­mem­bers, with close inter­ac­tion with families. 

The Intre­pid Cen­ter is not a treat­ment facil­i­ty, DeGra­ba said, but instead will take patients who are referred from mil­i­tary facil­i­ties that can’t help them. They and their fam­i­lies, he said, are then sent to the Intre­pid Cen­ter for about two weeks dur­ing which time they are eval­u­at­ed by the center’s array of health pro­fes­sion­als, includ­ing neu­rol­o­gists, radi­ol­o­gists, psy­chol­o­gists, phys­i­cal and occu­pa­tion­al ther­a­pists who will con­sid­er com­bi­na­tions of clin­i­cal and alter­na­tive remedies. 

The Intre­pid team will work to pro­vide a diag­no­sis and treat­ment plan that the ser­vice­mem­ber can return home with, DeGra­ba said. The center’s concierge and con­ti­nu­ity ser­vice com­prised of nurs­es and social work­ers will work close­ly with fam­i­lies to ensure they under­stand and sup­port their ser­vice­mem­ber through treat­ment, he said. 

“We plan on some very nov­el and unique plans for treat­ment,” and will coor­di­nate with med­ical providers at the servicemember’s home base to ensure long-term con­ti­nu­ity of care, Army Col. George Nuss­baum, deputy direc­tor of the center’s clin­i­cal and research sup­port, said. 

The cen­ter has capac­i­ty for 520 ser­vice­mem­bers and their fam­i­lies, and the Fish­er House Foun­da­tion, will build an addi­tion­al house, to add to two oth­ers it has on the med­ical cen­ter grounds, for giv­ing fam­i­lies of wound­ed war­riors a home away from home. 

“Our capac­i­ty is lim­it­less,” DeGra­ba said, not­ing the cen­ter is a research-shar­ing insti­tu­tion with reach around the world. Offi­cials there also plan to use the “tele­health” resources of Inter­net and tele­vi­sion for bet­ter out­reach, he said. 

Nathan said the Intre­pid cen­ter will pro­vide the best com­bi­na­tion of art and sci­ence to diag­nose and treat patients. It includes $10 mil­lion worth of the lat­est equip­ment to assess patients for diag­no­sis and treat­ment that includes the abil­i­ty to view as many as 6,000 images inside the brain from one MRI, where­as most imag­ing equip­ment only shows the out­side of the brain. And, vir­tu­al real­i­ty equip­ment is employed to assess a patient’s motor and cog­ni­tive skills, among others. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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