Conference shows new ways to help soldiers

May 28, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
There are dramatic new medical approaches being developed to help heal the men and women serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of those advances were announced Thursday at the Brain at War conference at the San Francisco Veteran's Administration.

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Nearly 20 percent of the 2 million men and women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered or will suffer some life altering injury, whether it is physical or mental.

It is such a critical situation, that the NCIRE - the Veteran's Health Research Institute - organized the conference so the nation's leaders in the field could share the latest research.

Lieutenant Colonel Sloane Guy, a University of California, San Francisco heart surgeon, works with the V.A. and is on active duty. He teleconferenced from Mosul, Iraq about his idea to use the Internet to videoconference specialists in this country with surgeons operating in the battlefield. They would be mentors, or proctors.

"He's engaged in types of cases, that are not necessarily the specialty of a heart surgeon, so he can be proctored by a neurosurgeon, he can be proctored by other specialties and perform that work just as well," Robert Obana of the NCIRE said.

MRI is one of the tools researchers at the San Francisco V.A. use to examine changes in the brain, from a traumatic brain injury so doctors can find better ways to help the damaged brain learn to learn again.

"If we can understand and decode that learning process then we hope that presents new hope, new targets new approaches for us to be able to go in and even make better treatments," Dr. Anthony Chen said.

The newest ideas in helping soldiers also include the Real Warriors Campaign. It was launched by Brigadier General Loree Sutton; she served in the first Gulf War.

"Like others, I struggled from time to time, with the traumatic effects of those experiences," Sutton said.

The Real Warriors Campaign is designed to eliminate the stigma of PTSD or other mental disorders and has some powerful messages.

"It's critical for folks to understand that getting help, getting treatment, is an act of courage and strength," Sutton said.

LINK: Real Warriors Campaign

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