WRNMMC, NICoE Partner with NEA to Help Warriors Heal

Story Number: NNS111217-02Release Date: 12/17/2011 8:57:00 AM
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By Sarah Fortney, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Public Affairs

BETHESDA, Md. (NNS) -- The National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) announced Dec. 13 their partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to enhance treatment for wounded warriors.

The NEA brings its creative writing program, Operation Homecoming, to the NICoE in January. During a yearlong pilot phase, the program will take place in the clinical setting.

The program consists of expressive writing workshop for troops as part of their clinical rehabilitation and an informal four-week creative writing storytelling series for service members and their families, said WRNMMC Commander, Rear Adm. Alton L. Stocks.

"In keeping with the NICoE's core mission of research, the NEA and the NICoE will work together to design and conduct assessments to evaluate how Operation Homecoming writing workshops affect participating troops, and establish authentic measurements of their efficacy," Stocks said. He added this research could potentially be replicated at other rehabilitation center around the country.

NICoE Director Dr. James Kelly and Deputy Director Dr. Thomas DeGraba gave officials and members of the press a tour of the facility. They explained the NICoE, which opened in June 2010, provides an interdisciplinary approach to care in a holistic, patient and family-centered environment, with a core mission of research. They continued the center provides treatment planning and long-term follow up for service members with combat-related traumatic brain injury and psychological health conditions.

During the tour, officials and media also had a glimpse of the facility and its state-of the-art equipment, such as the computer assisted rehabilitation environment (CAREN), which is one of eight such machines in the world. The CAREN features a motion platform with an embedded treadmill, an 180-degree projection screen, and customized virtual environments.

A positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT), 3T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetoencephalography are also amongst the technology used at the center. These images can be combined and viewed in the digital imaging visualization environment (DIVE), a movie theater styled room enabling providers to view brain scans and images utilizing 3D technology.

Kelly said the center is a place to help service members heal, as well as a place to help medical professionals learn how to enhance the treatment they provide.

"These new technologies and the subject matter experts will lead us into new areas of discovery and understanding of the major [conditions suffered by service members]," said Kelly.

In addition to the advanced technology, the NICoE features family-focused spaces, including a lounge, playground a cafe and an activity center. There are also patient rooms dedicated to art and music therapy, sleep studies and recreation therapy.

"What the NICoE is doing is groundbreaking, using innovative, holistic treatments, including the arts, to heal troops," said Rocco Landesman, chairman of the NEA. Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is an independent agency of the federal government and supports artistic programs.

Landesman said the NEA is proud to become a partner in the efforts to evaluate how art aids in healing troops.

"There is more in common between the military and the arts community than meets the eye," he said. "Both communities are looking for innovative solutions to challenges. Through Operation Homecoming, we join forces to give troops a creative way to explore, to express and to use the arts and writing as a catalyst for healing."

For more information about Operation Homecoming, visit www.operationhomecoming.gov.

For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.

For more news from National Naval Medical Center, visit www.navy.mil/local/nnmc/.

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