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Making the Invisible Visible

AHS E-News: September 2019

illustration of brain

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the signature wound for the post 9/11 era of veterans. According to the Department of Defense, nearly 400,000 members of the military suffered TBIs, classified as “mild” to “penetrating,” between the years 2000 and 2018. Among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, blast injuries, such as those involving improvised exploding devices (IED), are the primary source of TBI.  

Despite the prevalence of TBI, a deep understanding of symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment is lacking. Dr. Jeni Hunniecutt, visiting research specialist at the Chez Veterans Center, said that while TBI is not a new injury, determining the best ways to diagnose and treat it are. “We are in the age of advancing science to fully understand and actually see the brain and its functioning,” she said. “Advancing imaging technologies help us to make visible what is otherwise invisible with this injury.”

“Making the Invisible Visible: A Dialogue on Veteran Traumatic Brain Injury” is the theme of the Chez Veterans Center’s 2019 Veterans Day Event. Working collaboratively with the College of Applied Health Sciences, Carle Foundation Hospital, the University of Illinois Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute, and the University of Illinois Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the Center will foster dialogue among military service members and veterans, caregivers, and health care providers during the day-long event.

Dr. Reggie Alston, interim director of the Chez Veterans Center, said the focus of the event is to illuminate the complexity of traumatic brain injury. “In so doing, we hope to advance both research and services designed to enhance the well-being and quality of life of veterans and their caregivers,” he said.

The event includes experts in the field of neurology and brain health, according to Ingrid Wheeler, assistant director of behavioral health programs at the Center, as well as those with more intimate knowledge of the impact of TBI. “We also look forward to sharing personal stories from individuals with TBI and family members living with TBI and supporting a dialogue between these key contributors to understanding traumatic brain injury,” she said.

Keynote speakers for the event include Dr. James Kelly, executive director of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus’ Marcus Institute for Brain Health, and Justin Constantine, Marine Corps officer, combat veteran, and motivational speaker.

The event takes place on Friday, November 1, 2019, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Pollard Auditorium at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. To register or for more information, click here.