The 2016 Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) Summit concluded Friday after an intense three days that featured dozens of sessions on the latest developments in health care treatment and diagnostics of psychological health and traumatic brain injury (TBI). At the summit, the message that came through loud and clear from defense leaders was the value clinicians provide service members.
Navy Vice Adm. (Dr.) Raquel Bono, director of the Defense Health Agency (DHA), drove home the message that the most important thing providers can do is maintain course by continuing to provide the level of care they already offer.
Bono highlighted three psychological health priorities for DHA: fortifying its relationship with the services, strengthening its role as a combat support agency, and optimizing its operations.
“We want to be more streamlined so we’re serving the entire enterprise,” Bono said to the 1,770 registered summit attendees.
By doing so, DHA can help providers ensure care is even more accessible to patients, Bono said.
Dr. Karen S. Guice, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, offered high praise for all involved in treating patients coping with psychological health or traumatic brain injury (TBI) challenges.
“Everything you do has meaning,” Guice said. “Everything you do has value.”
For summit participants and providers in the Military Health System, the conference enabled the sharing of knowledge about the latest developments in psychological health and TBI, said DCoE Director Navy Capt. (Dr.) Mike Colston.
Colston, who opened the summit each morning, made clear the importance of recognizing the number of advancements of psychological health and TBI care. These successes will continue to shape future advancements.
“It’s an honor to host this year's summit. The sessions and conversations highlighted so many areas of collaboration between health care professionals and academics, addressing all aspects of psychological health and TBI care, education and research,” said Colston. “Thank you to all the attendees and presenters who worked so diligently to share their knowledge and lessons learned as they translate research into better care for our military population.”
Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center Director Army Col. (Dr.) Geoffrey G. Grammer saluted the presenters as well as the clinicians who attended the summit live and online, for their engagement with the presentations.
“I was very impressed by the questions that were proposed by the online audience,” Grammer said. “It showed a level of attention to these presentations that was most welcome.”
Below are a few highlights from the final two days of the summit:
- Dr. Diane Castillo, a psychologist and treatment core chief for the Department of Veterans Affairs Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans in Waco, Texas, discussed the effectiveness of cognitive- and exposure-based therapies for female veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who deployed in recent conflicts. Small-group prolonged-exposure therapy reduced the feelings of isolation for some veterans.
- Presenters from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Kaiserslautern, Germany, described a multidisciplinary six-week program for members of special operations forces that helped mid-career service members recover from injuries that included TBI, PTSD, and back pain, even years after the original injuries were sustained.
- Dr. Kate McGraw, a clinical psychologist and Deployment Health Clinical Center interim director, outlined some of the factors that affect female service members’ psychological health, including deployment and combat health issues, reproductive issues, musculoskeletal issues, suicide, sexual assault and harassment, and how to help them perform alongside their male counterparts.
- Dr. Karen Besterman-Dahan, a research science specialist at the Center of Innovation in Disabilities and Rehabilitation Research, James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, reviewed a study on community reintegration in veterans with TBI. From the study, three things that benefited veterans were storytelling, increased communication and one-on-one social support.
- Adler University Professor Barton Buechner and Air Force Health Professions scholar Jeremy Jinkerson stressed that education is key to help service members recover from moral injury.
Beginning Oct. 31, DCoE will offer all of the summit sessions online. At that time, those who were unable to view the live sessions can still receive continuing education credit for them by signing up and watching the recorded sessions. The 2017 DCoE Summit is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 19-21, 2017.