Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

New NICoE director sets an ambitious agenda for the future

Image of Military personnel wearing face mask while talking to each other. Navy Capt. (Dr.) Carlos Williams (right) converses with Navy HM2 Cameron Waldron in a central room where yoga, meditation, and other therapies take place at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in March 2021 (Courtesy of NICoE).

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Brain Injury Awareness Month | TBI Education and Training Events | Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Centers of Excellence | The National Intrepid Center of Excellence

To Navy Capt. (Dr.) Carlos Williams, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence is a gem of the Military Health System, where victims of traumatic brain injury come for care that is intensive, interdisciplinary, holistic and family-based.

Williams has been the director of NICoE at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, since October. Before that he was special advisor and director of the Office of Global Health Engagement for the Navy, and he is the immediate past regional health affairs attaché to the Pacific Islands.

He received his medical degree from Morehouse School of Medicine and completed his internship and residencies in internal medicine and pediatrics at Wayne State University in Detroit. Williams holds an appointment as assistant professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and adjunct professor at Morehouse.

Just a few months into his new duty station, Williams already takes a great deal of pride in what NICoE has done, and where it's going.

"It really stands at a unique crossroads," Williams said. "In 2010 (when NICoE was founded), we were in the midst of the wars, and TBI was front and center. The challenge with it today is that TBI is still important because these injuries and these wounds, they don't go away just because the fighting stops. They are lifetime chronic diseases that you deal with."

Since that founding, 10 other centers across the country - the Intrepid Spirit Center Network, or ISCs - have been stood up to support the work of NICoE. Williams' vast experience with global health programs will come in handy as he assesses what comes next for NICoE and the ISCs.

Williams also earned his MBA from Johns Hopkins University, so the business of medicine is not foreign to him, particularly with the Defense Health Agency and the Military Health System. He knows how health care works, having spent two years on Capitol Hill working for the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Foundation. He was selected as an inaugural U.S. Presidential Leadership Scholar in 2015. He's done interagency, international, and public-private partnership work. The Georgia native has been around.

"The first thing we did was a stakeholder analysis, just to look at all our strengths and weaknesses," Williams said. "We want to focus on really maturing and establishing a firm network across the board. That means the NICoE and ISC network, we want that to be a true entity with a value proposition ... with academia, with industry, with interagency, and with other DOD partners. But our primary role is to support our active duty members."

He plans to do that by increasing NICoE's research capabilities and launching a program called TRIP (Translating Research Into Practice) with "clinically relevant activities." The goal is to take NICoE's decade of research and translate it into better care, he said, including standardization and expansion of outpatient services as well as intensive care offerings.

"We want to make sure that we show the value that these centers provide and how they're productive and what it takes to run them," Williams said. "This is an interdisciplinary model. We are discussing these patients individually, and one aspect affects another. It's a unique model for caring for patients. We want to improve patient outcomes and show how this model does that."

Other bullet list items are education, training, and outreach, including more interaction with the media and educating the public through tools like webinars. "One of my big initiatives for this year is really getting beyond the walls of Walter Reed," he said. "I'm excited. It's going to be a big year."

Military personnel standing with former presidents, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton
Navy Capt. (Dr.) Carlos Williams (center) with former U.S. presidents George W. Bush (left) and Bill Clinton at the graduation of the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program in 2015 (Courtesy Capt. Carlos Williams).

'Your best life'

Caring for a TBI patient is not just a one-disease process, he said. The neurological and rehabilitative aspects, for instance, go hand-in-hand with the engagement of patients' family members. And because TBI is often a life-long struggle, learning to live with one's injuries is paramount.

"Learning resiliency from them, and learning how to make this work for you, so you can achieve your best life, that's what it really boils down to," said Williams, adding that the family therapy program has really taken off in the last few years.

With TBI injuries, so many aspects of one's life are affected profoundly. Sleep, balance, cognition, hearing, and speech, to name a few. That means that everything you know as normal has changed, Williams said. It's enough to make the patient feel that they are an entirely different person. And families must adjust to the new norm as well, especially since many manifestations of TBI are behavioral in nature.

NICoE admits about six new patients a week, or 24 per month, who do intensive four-week programs, Williams explained.

Williams said he often hears that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are all but over. But that's not true, especially for someone who has yet to be diagnosed for post-traumatic stress disorder, for instance, or a head injury that has yet to be treated.

"No one wants to be taken out of the fight. No one wants to be sidelined because of injury," he said. "So they cope with it, they try to deal with it, until they can't deal with it anymore. What makes NICoE and the Intrepid Spirit Centers so unique is that we take care of you where you are."

Some service members had their first concussion 10 years ago, he explained, but they dust themselves off and keep going.

For 2021, Williams explained how the COVID-19 pandemic opened the door to tele-health, which will enable a wider group of services. "It has really and truly improved access to care."

But the big picture for this year is the network, he said. "Showing the MHS our value as a network, and not just individual entities. ... My primary objective is to make sure that people see the value of this organization and the value of caring for patients with TBI, and then codifying this network of Spirit Centers. I want it to be known."

Williams' plans for 2021 are ambitious, but he realizes that TBI is a tricky field.

"It's not like a surgery," he said. "You have to rely on the patient (to communicate). It's about 'How do I feel?' I can't go in and surgically repair a TBI. Not in this case. These are psychological wounds of war. Some of them have physical implications to them, too, and we fix those and work with those. But the challenge is, how to you access these outcomes?

"We want to see patient outcomes. They went back to a job. They got a promotion. They stayed in the military longer. Those are the stories that make us know that what we do matters."

You also may be interested in...

TBICoE Quarterly Education Series: Social Determinants of Health

Publication
6/21/2022

The TBICoE Quarterly Education Series is back August, 17 2022! The topic is Social Determinants of Health Social determinants of health are conditions in the environment that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes. Please join TBICoE and researchers of the Traumatic Brain Injury Model System to review barriers and facilitators to care among individuals living with traumatic brain injury. Please join TBICoE and researchers of the Traumatic Brain Injury Model System to review barriers and facilitators to care among individuals living with traumatic brain injury.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | TBI Educators | TBICoE Research | TBI Education and Training Events

Protecting Your Hearing and Vision is a Personal Readiness Mission

Article
6/14/2022
Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Dominique Campbell drives a forklift on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) during a vertical replenishment. She is wearing proper hearing and vision protection.

Experts from the Centers of Excellence help advance research to diagnose and treat diseases and conditions that affect military personnel and their families.

Recommended Content:

Centers of Excellence

Cancer Patients Discuss Experiences During DOD Moonshot 2 Initiative Roundtable

Article
5/17/2022
The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) hosted a Department of Defense Cancer Moonshot Roundtable, “A Conversation on Cancer Health Equity and Military-relevant Environmental Exposures,” on May 4. (Photo: Courtesy of Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences)

On May 4, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) hosted the Department of Defense Cancer Moonshot Roundtable as part of a day-long series of agency events sponsored by the White House Cancer Moonshot initiative.

Recommended Content:

Centers of Excellence | Cancer Moonshot

2021 DOD Worldwide Numbers for TBI

Report
5/17/2022

TBICoE is the Defense Department’s office of responsibility for tracking traumatic brain injury data in the U.S. military. Here you’ll find data on the number of active-duty service members—anywhere U.S. forces are located—with a first-time TBI diagnosis in 2021. The data is also broken down by each branch of the armed services.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | TBI Educators | TBI Provider Resources | Traumatic Brain Injury

2000-2021 DOD Worldwide Numbers for TBI

Report
5/17/2022

TBICoE is the Defense Department’s office of responsibility for tracking traumatic brain injury data in the U.S. military. Here you’ll find data on the number of active-duty service members—anywhere U.S. forces are located—with a first-time TBI diagnosis from calendar year 2000 through the fourth quarter of 2021. The data is also broken down by each branch of the armed services.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | TBI Educators | TBI Provider Resources | Traumatic Brain Injury

Neuroimaging Following Mild TBI Clinical Recommendation

Publication
5/16/2022

This TBICoE clinical recommendation allows primary care managers to make an informed, evidenced-based decision regarding whether or not imaging is indicated following a concussion/mild TBI.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | TBI Provider Resources | Traumatic Brain Injury

DOD Cancer Research Program Aims to 'End Cancer as We Know It Today'

Article
5/3/2022
Dr. Craig Shriver is leading a renewed DOD/DHA effort to significantly expand cancer research and save lives through personalized medical treatments using proteogenomics. Shriver is director of the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and professor of surgery at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences. (Photo: Bernard Little, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center)

DOD/DHA to greatly expand Military Health System cancer research, with a roundtable on the effort slated for May 4.

Recommended Content:

Centers of Excellence | Cancer Moonshot

New Centers Will Deliver Advanced Care for Serious Eye Injuries

Article
4/27/2022
Army Brig. Gen. Katherine Simonson, Defense Health Agency Deputy Assistant Director of the Research and Engineering Directorate, and Dr. Barclay Butler, Assistant Director for Management, DHA, talks with Army Lt. Col. Samantha Rodgers, Ophthalmology chief (left), during a tour and designation ceremony April 19 at the Ocular Trauma Center – San Antonio Region, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The designation ceremony marked the launch of DHA’s first Ocular Trauma Center, comprised of personnel from Brooke Army Medical Center and the 59th Medical Group. (Photo: Larine H. Barr, DOD)

The Defense Health Agency launched the first of four Ocular Trauma Centers, which will become primary hubs for the treatment of complex eye injuries and development of cutting-edge research programs.

Recommended Content:

Centers of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Vision Center of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

2021 Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence Annual Report

Publication
4/26/2022

The 2021 Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence (TBICoE) Annual Report provides a look at accomplishments and activities from calendar year 2021.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Educators | TBICoE Research | TBI Provider Resources

A History of the Combat Helmet and the Quest to Prevent Injuries

Article
4/25/2022
Lt. Gen. George S. Patton and Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. are pictured here in 1943 wearing the standard M1 helmet, sometimes called the "steel pot." (Photo: 1st Infantry Division Courtesy Photo)

The combat helmet has evolved over time to improve protection against projectiles and shock waves to reduce the risk of fatal blows and traumatic brain injuries.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Military Medical History

Concussion Care Pathway Streamlined for Better Results

Article
4/1/2022
Dr. Gregory Johnson, Tripler Concussion Clinic medical director, conducts a neurological exam on Army Spc. Andrew Karamatic, a combat medic, having him follow his finger with his eyes, at Tripler Army Medical Center, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Neurologic exams are part of the MACE 2 diagnostic tool to assess service members’ Acute Concussion Care Pathway. (Photo: Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal, DMA Pacific – Hawaii Media Bureau)

The Defense Health Agency has developed a comprehensive clinical care program (Acute Concussion Care Pathway) to manage concussions based on the military medical community’s many years of experience with injured service members.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

Brain-Boosting Meal Plans Help Service Members with TBI

Article
3/30/2022
During the NICoE intensive outpatient program (IOP), staff nutritionist Ruth Clark teaches hands-on classes in the on-site patient kitchen. (Photo: Tahira Hayes (Ctr), NICoE/WRNMMC, NSA Bethesda)

Research has shown that dietary changes may help relieve symptoms that might complicate recovery from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness

Immediate Testing: How the Military Evaluates Risk For Brain Injuries

Article
3/28/2022
Pfc. Thomas Icenogle, a student in the Army’s Combat Medic Specialist Training Program at the Medical Education and Training Campus on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, conducts a Military Acute Concussion Evaluation 2 (MACE 2) on Pvt. Alejandro Leija, while Pvt. Dominic Dubois refers to the MACE 2 card. (Photo: Lisa Braun, Medical Education and Training Campus Public Affairs)

MACE 2 allows for a quick assessment of traumatic brain injuries in the field and is similar to sports concussion checks.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

One Airmans Recovery from TBI

Video
3/28/2022
One Airmans Recovery from TBI

After a motorcycle accident, Master Sergeant Stalnaker started having symptoms of traumatic brain injury, or TBI. He tells his story about his symptoms and his road to recovery from physical and emotional wounds as a result.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

Art Therapy at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence

Video
3/23/2022
Art Therapy at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence

Adrienne Stamper, an art therapist at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE), provides a window into the process of healing through art therapy. Art therapists are master’s-level behavioral health professionals who are trained to use art as a vehicle for non-verbal thoughts, emotions, and experiences. At NICoE, the service members have freedom of self-expression and use a wide range of media such as painting, sculpting, drawing, wood-burning, collaging, and creative writing. Stamper explains the scientific basis for why traumatic survivors struggle to put their experience into words, and how art therapy can enable them to find their voice. By working with imagery, the emotional brain, and the physical body, art therapy helps to integrate and restore a sense of control over these painful memories. Stamper walks us through the studio, sharing stories of service members who found healing through art therapy, and shows us the faces of the invisible wounds of war.

Recommended Content:

The National Intrepid Center of Excellence | Creative Arts Therapies
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 18
Refine your search
Last Updated: May 16, 2022

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.