FALLS CHURCH, Va. (Army News Service, April 16, 2014) – The medical community is on the “precipice” of great advances in regards to brain health, said the Army’s surgeon general.
Understanding the brain, “one of the most powerful organs that we have within our body,” will benefit Soldiers, their families, and the nation, said Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, commanding general of the Army Medical Command.
“Our vision in Army Medicine is improving the health of our nation by improving the health of our Army,” she said.
Horoho spoke April 11, at the conclusion of a two-day Brain Health Consortium she hosted at the Defense Health Headquarters here. The consortium brought together Soldiers and experts in the medical field to discuss ways forward in understanding and maximizing brain health.
Just as there have been tremendous advances in other areas of medicine over the last two decades, Horoho expects great strides to be made in brain health.
“I think where we are today, we are in the precipice of the same thing, we need to be asking the questions today and trying to find those answers for something that’s going to make a difference dramatically 15 to 20 years from now,” she said.
“I believe that the change that we’re going to see is going to be dramatic,” she said. “I believe it’s going to be fast-paced in taking information and having it develop into changes in behaviors and outcomes,” she said.
Any gains made by military research can be shared with civilian medicine to benefit the entire nation, she said.
The “real-time mission” is to help the Soldiers who have sacrificed so much for the nation.
“There are going to be young Americans who are going to be depending on what we do today in our decisions that make a difference in the lives of those who are going to be defending our freedom,” she said.
The two days of discussions and the fusing of ideas between the civilian and military experts serve as a “launching pad” for much more to come in the future in regards to brain health, Horoho said.
“We have to make sure that what we’re doing today is really focused on improving the health and the outcomes of those who are willing to give so much to our nation, and the families who support them,” she said.
As she ended the conference, Horoho shared a story of the power of brain in finding strength and courage, and the marvels of modern medicine.
She talked about former Sgt. Brendan Marrocco, who lost all his limbs in a bomb attack while on a vehicle patrol in Iraq, in 2009. The blast killed Cpl. Michael Anaya and injured one other Soldier.
Marrocco’s goal after his injury, Horoho said, was to stand on his prosthesis within a year, to welcome his battle buddies home.
“And in that year, he stood on his prosthetic legs and he saluted his Soldiers who were coming home,” she said.
The story doesn’t end there, she said.
In December 2012, he received two arms in a complex, 13-hour surgery.
“Less than 60 days after his double arm transplant, I went to visit him and he’s throwing a ball to me,” she said.
The surgery was performed at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
“This year he shared that when the “Star-Spangled Banner” was played, he realized that he had his hand over his heart,” said Horoho.
“That’s the inspiration of our young Soldiers who choose to serve in our military; that’s the inspiration of an individual who wanted to live,” she said.
It is also the inspiration of the civilian and military communities, she said, who believed they could help him and invested in his care.
“I think there’s something in the power of the brain that we’ll never know right now, but what it was that gave him the courage and the inspiration and the ability to overcome that,” she said.