Back to Top Skip to main content

The NICoE: Ten years of Healing ‘The Invisible Wounds of War’

Image of man hooked up to machine and walking on treadmill The National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center houses the Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment (CAREN), a magnetoencephalography (MEG) machine used to analyze and train patient movement for peak efficiency and optimal execution. (WRNMMC photo).

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

The National Intrepid Center of Excellence first opened its doors to patients in June 2010, and Military Health System officials celebrated the 10th anniversary of the center, dedicated to advancing the nation’s understanding of and healing the invisible wounds of war, during a ceremony June 25 at the facility.

The interdisciplinary model of care developed at the NICoE, a part of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, brings together neurologists, psychologists, family care doctors, psychiatrists, nutritionists, neuropsychologists, therapists, specialists and other professionals under one roof. This team collaborates in the diagnosis, treatment and care of MHS beneficiaries affected by traumatic brain injury (TBI) or those who may exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTS). Their efforts have proven effective and allowed more than 90 percent of patients treated at the NICoE to continue on active duty in the armed forces, according to NICoE officials.

Research, treatment modalities and services at the NICoE include neuroimaging, art therapy, music therapy, animal-assisted therapy, audiology and vestibular care, a brain fitness center, driving assessment and rehabilitation, family education, and other complementary and integrative medicine techniques such as biofeedback, acupuncture and yoga. This Center of Excellence also houses the Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment, a magnetoencephalography machine used to analyze and train patient movement for peak efficiency and optimal execution, and a 3T Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner, which provides researchers access to cutting-edge image acquisition methods, such as multiband diffusion tensor imaging and echo planar imaging sequences.

Last year, more than 2,000 patients received care from NICoE providers in more than 34,000 clinical encounters in the four-week Intensive Outpatient Program, in TBI outpatient services, and in collaboration with inpatient teams from other WRNMMC directorates, figures from NICoE indicate.

Man painting a mask
The National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, offers patients affected by traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress, driving assessment and rehabilitation, in addition to a number of other treatment modalities. (WRNMMC photo)

Navy Capt. (Dr.) Walter Greenhalgh, NICoE director, credited “the persistent, strong advocacy of leadership from WRNMMC, the National Capital Region Market, the Defense Health Agency and the Department of Defense” for NICoE’s ability to provide “safe, reliable and innovative” health care to the nation’s heroes and their families. He added that, WRNMMC’s leadership has “held a spotlight on NICoE while continuously pushing the NICoE team to strive to be the best that it can be, guiding NICoE to make the most of the amazing resources it’s been granted by the American people, while integrating TBI into the MHS’s Pathway of Care.”

“The WRNMMC leadership has held NICoE to the same high standards of safe, quality health care as they have with the rest of the hospital because the most deserving of patients and their families deserve nothing less,” Greenhalgh said. He added, how the standard of care has extended nationwide through the NICoE network of facilities and providers in the Intrepid Spirit Centers.

Dr. Thomas DeGraba, chief innovation officer and deputy director of NICoE, said what has remained unwavering since the center first opened its doors, is “the outstanding dedication and expertise of the NICoE staff to do what’s necessary at any cost to be able to help service members recover from the injuries they sustained in the protection of this country.”

DeGraba added that, NICoE helped break down the stigma of those treated for TBI and PTS. He explained how TBI and PTS were once thought to be untreatable, and troops were medically dischargedout of the service without a good strategy for recovery.

“This center, along with a number of colleagues through the MHS, have proven [TBI and PTS are treatable],” DeGraba said. “The brain does heal, and service members can come up with strategies to be able to deal with those stressors that have caused them challenges so they can get back to productive lives, as well as get back to the interpersonal relationships with their families and friends that many times are disrupted by TBI and psychological health issues,” he furthered.

Army Col. (Dr.) Andrew Barr, WRNMMC director, also saluted NICoE and its staff for its 10 years of serving the nation, its heroes and their families.

“These past few months and this global pandemic have shown us just how adaptable and resilient we can be in times of great uncertainty and change. NICoE has led the way at this time with innovative approaches to maintain our missions,” Barr said. He added that this is indicative of NICoE achieving countless examples of excellence during his decade-long history.

“The words ‘Center of Excellence’ are more than just buzz words,” Barr continued. “You are a center of excellence in the truest definition of the term. This is reflected in the patient care, research and education that happens here every day, and the tangible, positive improvements made in the lives of our patients and their families.”

“NICoE’s guiding principles of excellence, innovation, compassion, collaboration and honor are evident in all that you do, and your patient- and family-centered holistic approach to TBI research and care, serve as a model throughout the MHS and for many other health organizations across the globe,” Barr concluded.

In an interview published in the February 2015 National Geographic focused on “Healing Our Soldiers, Unlocking the Secrets of Traumatic Brain Injury,” Army Staff Sgt. Perry Hopman discussed how NICoE’s arty therapy program helped him.

Hopman, who served as a flight medic in Iraq, said about the art therapy, “I think this is what started me kind of opening up and talking about stuff and actually trying to get better.”

You also may be interested in...

DVBIC study focuses on concussion-related headaches

Soldier (center) standing at attention receives an award pinned to their uniform, from a soldier standing directly before her, with a soldier standing at attention to one side. A long building is seen in the background with two flagpoles, one flying the US flag.

Service members with concussion-related headaches experience more frequent and severe pain compared to those with headaches unrelated to this condition.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | September Toolkit

Air Force opens Intrepid Spirit Center at Eglin AFB

Soldiers holding a long ribbon and cutting it

The EISC...recognizes the need for a medical facility dedicated to invisible wounds.

Recommended Content:

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Traumatic Brain Injury

DVBIC eye-tracking tech may help service members with concussions

Soldier sitting in front of a laptop with headphones on

The Fusion technology is more objective, by assessing eye reaction time.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

TBI researchers increased access to data expands ability to care

Image of woman speaking at a podium

The study's impact will expand with its inclusion in FITBIR.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

DVBIC collaboration leads to improved sleep recommendations

Airman sleeping on floor of plane

The expanded recommendations identify additional sleep disturbances through a streamlined process of diagnosis and management.

Recommended Content:

Sleep | Traumatic Brain Injury

Invisible wounds: understanding PTSD

Service member appearing distressed with hand on head.

Identifing symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and how to seek treatment.

Recommended Content:

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Mental Health Care

MHS mental health experts shed light on PTSD

Female soldier with war images superimposed on her head

Media roundtable event recognizes PTSD Awareness Month

Recommended Content:

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

The Language of Anger and Depression Among Patients with Concussions

Image of naval captain talking to another military person

Soldiers often do not overtly express their feelings of depression.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Anger | Depression

Improving training of healthcare providers boosts post-concussion care

Elizabeth Fuentes (left), physical therapist assistant, Fort Bliss Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, William Beaumont Army Medical Center, provides information and educates medical professionals about TBI symptoms, treatments and assessments, during the TBI Clinic’s open house event, in observance of Brain Injury Awareness Month. (U.S. Army photo by Marcy Sanchez)

This study highlights the importance of integrating research, clinical affairs, and education activities at DVBIC

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

Caring for the caregivers of TBI patients

Shundra Johnson, left, gives encouragement to her husband Coast Guard Lt. Sancho Johnson during the Navy’s wounded warrior training camp for the 2015 DoD Warrior Games in Port Hueneme, Calif., May 29, 2015. Shundra is also her husband’s caregiver. (DoD News photo by EJ Hersom)

A new tool, developed by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, could allow health care providers to assess the burdens on caregivers and develop treatments to meet their needs

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

Female, male service members, veterans recover from concussion differently

At an informal celebration at the AFWERX Vegas Innovation Hub earlier this month, U.S. Air Force personnel took delivery of four helmet designs that may each represent the next generation of fixed-wing aircrew equipment. In just nine months, the AFWERX innovations process generated tangible products for further Air Force testing and development. (U.S. Air Force photo by Nathan Riddle)

Female veterans may have a harder time performing some mental tasks after a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Women's Health | Men's Health

Brain Injury Awareness Month raises awareness of TBI in the military

The Department of Defense and the Military Health System recognizes March each year as Brain Injury Awareness Month to increase awareness of traumatic brain injuries, and the Department’s efforts to improve its ability to identify, care for, and treat service members and veterans who are affected by TBI. (MHS graphic)

A division of the Defense Health Agency Research and Development Directorate, DVBIC is the DoD’s TBI center of excellence

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources

Joint Staff doctor explains TBI diagnosis procedures

An Airman searches for salvageable items after missile attacks at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Jan. 12, 2020. At a Pentagon news conference, Air Force Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Paul Friedrichs, the Joint Staff Surgeon, said 110 service members have been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injuries from the attack. Most have returned to duty, while 25 returned to the United States for further treatment, he said, and six more are still undergoing testing. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Derek Mustard)

A TBI takes time to diagnose, and the process is involved

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

Positive attitude, social support may promote TBI/PTSD resilience

Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Derenne, a psychiatrist at Naval Hospital Jacksonville, discusses mental health and resiliency at the hospital’s Behavioral Health Clinic. Derenne, a native of Orange, California, says, “Mental health challenges should not be hidden or ignored; seeking help early is a sign of strength. Just like physical fitness, good mental health is integral to your well-being and mission readiness.” (U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel)

Psychological experiences prior to an injury may play a role in recovery

Recommended Content:

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Traumatic Brain Injury

Warm Handoff for Transitioning Servicemembers Suffering from PTSD and TBI

Congressional Testimony

S. 2987, SASC Report for FY 2019, 115-262, Pg. 203-204

Recommended Content:

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Traumatic Brain Injury
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 7

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.