Richmond’s McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center has built the reputation as the VA system’s premiere program for treating polytrauma patients, those soldiers who come from the battlefield with multiple disabling injuries including traumatic brain injury.
From left to right: Director of the Richmond VA Medical Center Charles E. Sepich, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki, Virginia Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, D-3rd, Dean of Medicine Jerome F. Strauss, III, M.D., Ph.D., and network director of the region’s Veterans Integrated Service Network Daniel F. Hoffman.
The polytrauma unit at McGuire tests approaches for these difficult to treat patients and then shares what works throughout the VA system. On February 3, Eric K. Shinseki, the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, visited McGuire for a first-hand view of the work.
Visits like this do a tremendous amount for patients’ recovery, according to Shane McNamee, M.D., who is medical director of McGuire’s Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center. “The patients are buoyed by seeing their senior leadership on site, caring about them as individuals.”
McNamee led Shinseki on a tour that included meeting patients and test driving a backhoe simulator that prepares patients for real-world jobs. As an assistive technology Center of Excellence, the McGuire VA is among the first to get new equipment that is useful in rehabilitation.
McGuire is one of few VA medical centers in the country that treat active duty service members in addition to veterans. Because of that, they see a large number of patients with recent, acute injuries. Shinseki told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that seeing the service members’ hard won improvement made him proud of the VA’s work.
Like many of the VA’s physicians, McNamee holds a joint appointment in the medical school. Now an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, he also completed his housestaff training on the MCV Campus.
The medical school’s longstanding partnership with the nearby McGuire VA was spotlighted by the Jan. 11 visit of First Lady Michelle Obama when she came to Richmond to announce the Joining Forces initiative.
Dean of Medicine Jerry Strauss, M.D., Ph.D., toured the unit with Shinseki and was reminded of the importance of the VA’s relationship to the medical school and its faculty. “When we visited the unit, we met a number of polytrauma patients who are working hard on their recovery. They have earned our country’s gratitude, and I was impressed to see the team approach to world-class care that the polytrauma program provides for our service men and women.”
Photo courtesy of the McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Read the Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage of Shinseki’s visit.