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American Hospitals Increase Training for Veterans “Invisible Wounds”

Lies, damn lies, and statistics. –Mark Twain

But in this case, the statistics don’t lie.

  • About 50,000 service members have come home physically injured from Iraq and/or Afghanistan. These are our brave men and women with scars, crutches, and prosthetics.
  • Over 8,000 service members have come home to rest. These brave men and women gave their lives for their country and were buried with military honors.
  • And according to veterans’ advocates cited by the Brain Trauma Foundation, there’s an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 veterans with “invisible wounds” caused by a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s averaged to a ratio of one in six veterans.

These brave men and women suffer, mostly silently, through their physical and emotional symptoms, often accompanied by social stigma and misunderstanding. This is not just a military problem. Many of these veterans turn to civilian medical facilities for treatment. And as most of our combat veterans are in their 20s or 30s, this issue will be around for a long time.

Through the advocacy of the Joining Forces initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden (wife of Vice-President Joe Biden), 130 medical and osteopathic colleges have joined forces to work toward the common goal of improving the medical services offered to veterans and their families. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) are committed to working in conjunction with the Department of Defense and the Veteran’s Affairs Office to improve research, training, and communication both within and between civilian and military medical providers.

This initiative brings together those already working on this issue as well as those ready to make the commitment. Already at work, the AAMC has joined with the Uniformed Services University o f the Health Sciences (USUHS) at Bethesda, Maryland to create TBI and PTSD educational units available to all United States medical facilities, working with the Joining Forces initiative or not. The University of South Florida’s collaboration includes developing the United States’ first ever Center for Veterans Reintegration. The University of Pittsburg continues to work on developing and improved brain imaging machine. Now both universities can do so with a wider audience to brainstorm and share, beneficial not only for the academic community but for the nation.

Creating these collaborations leads to synergy; two plus two no longer equals four, but twenty-four. The brainstorming is more productive, the outcomes are quicker, and the information is exchanged on a wider scale, leading to more brainstorming.

These men and women in the services have put their lives on the line and come back changed. Our lack of knowledge on their condition can no longer be ignored; the numbers are too large and the stakes are too high for our nation. The list of participating civilian medical research and educational institutions as of 2012 can be found here.

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