SoldierStrong, a national nonprofit committed to using revolutionary medical technology to help military veterans take their next steps forward, and the University of Southern California, were recognized as a top-eight finalist at the annual Igniting Innovation Conference and Awards for their partnership in developing and distributing virtual reality systems to treat military veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress (PTS).
The American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) also presented SoldierStrong and USC with the “Game Changer” award, which recognizes innovations that “provide breakthrough solutions and new ways to navigate longstanding problems. The Igniting Innovation Conference and Awards, presented by the ACT-IAC, shines a light on the country’s top innovators and innovations that advance the lives of Americans and the government entities which serve them.
“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized as a finalist at the Igniting Innovation Conference and Awards by industry experts who truly understand and value disruptive technology,” said Chris Meek, co-founder and chairman of SoldierStrong. “We believe it’s a great achievement to be a finalist and receive the “Game Changer” award, especially considering the depth and quality of the other finalists and, in fact, the entire field of nominees.”
The StrongMind program leverages the USC Institute for Creative Technologies’ Virtual Realities system BRAVEMIND to deliver prolonged exposure therapy – the practice of recalling a troubling memory while talking through the nuances of that memory with a licensed therapist. This evidence-based and effective method for treating PTS allows therapists to recreate the scene of the veteran’s troubling memory in a virtual reality headset and thus, places the veteran squarely back within the midst of that memory at a pace they can handle. StrongMind’s technology creates 14 specific “worlds,” or combat scenarios, and allows trained therapists to select a given world based on a veteran’s traumatic experience and customize it based on their unique needs.
“It’s very gratifying to have peers in our discipline and in other scientific fields recognize the significance of this innovative, life-changing technology and the services that the USC-SoldierStrong relationship is providing to our country’s veterans,” said Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo, director of medical virtual reality at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies. “We are humbled by this recognition and thank the ACT-IAC for its efforts to bring attention to this novel approach for treating combat-related PTS. This approach is now being expanded to address the needs of those who have suffered trauma due to sexual assault, first responder occupational hazards, and the stress that is now being experienced by healthcare professionals on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis. The SoldierStrong partnership has created opportunities that stand to better the lives of all Americans who have suffered from the experience of trauma.”
To date, SoldierStrong has donated 14 virtual reality hardware and software systems to VA Health Care medical facilities, with the long-term goal of providing access to the StrongMind technology to veterans at every VA facility in the United States.
SoldierStrong and USC, in collaboration with the VHA Innovation Ecosystem, an organization which promotes innovations in the healthcare industry which directly benefit veterans, were among 150 nominees for this year’s Igniting Innovation Awards. Submissions focused on a wide variety of fields, including IT modernization, data analytics, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and robotic process automation. In June, the ACT-IAC announced 40 semi-finalists whose innovations address pertinent issues in fields such as healthcare, defense, public safety, aviation, and finance. From that group, the top eight were recognized at an event hosted by the ACT-IAC, where each of the organizations were able to present their innovations to the public sector and top finalists and an overall award winner were selected by attendees.
Vice President Mike Pence recognized SoldierStrong during his speech for the work that we are doing to provide revolutionary medical technologies to veterans. We are grateful that this year’s convention recognized the service and honored the presence of our country’s heroes. Thank you to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, First Lady Melania Trump and Second Lady Karen Pence for your generosity.
Several veterans representing SoldierStrong were honored to be so graciously greeted by President Donald J. Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence at the #RNC2020 where they demonstrated the Indego exoskeleton suit used to aid paralyzed and injured veterans in regaining the ability to stand and walk again.
It’s often said that “not all wounds are visible.” This month offers the prime opportunity to reflect on that sentiment and conceptualize how we can ensure that even though some wounds may not be visible, they are still treated like those wounds that are. I believe this starts with the way in which we talk about and offer treatment for PTS.
There is an abundance of research and data about the presence of post-traumatic stress in veterans that is worth sharing and reflecting on. This month I encourage everyone to take the time to educate themselves on the subject and to review the research that is available in order to gain a better understanding. But for the sake of brevity, I will share one statistic here that in particular impacts and informs the work we do at SoldierStrong.
Between 11 and 20 veterans out of 100 who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom experience symptoms of PTS in a calendar year.
SoldierStrong is working diligently to provide those veterans grappling with PTS another tool to aid in their journey of recovery through the StrongMind program. In recognition of PTS Awareness Month, I wanted to shine a light this month on the service that StrongMind provides.
StrongMind helps veterans recovering from PTS using virtual reality therapy. Virtual reality can be used to deliver prolonged exposure therapy – the practice of recalling a traumatic memory while talking through the nuances of that memory with a therapist – an evidence-based method for treating PTS. Virtual reality therapy makes the process of recalling traumatic memories easier for veterans.
To date, the StrongMind hardware and software has been donated to 13 VA Hospitals and other medical centers across the country, allowing a tremendous number of veterans access to revolutionary PTS treatment.
Even if you are not a veteran, have never experienced PTS yourself or do not know anyone who has experienced PTS, I implore everyone to take a pledge this month to raise awareness about the effects and impacts of PTS on veterans. In addition, I think it is just as important to raise awareness about resources that are effective in treating PTS. This can be done by letting those in your life know about the StrongMind program and any other effective PTS treatments you are aware of to help build and establish a greater awareness of treatment options.
The greater level of awareness that we are able to build, the more likely Americans will recognize important symptoms of PTS and the more likely veterans will reach out to receive the treatment they need.
If you would like to learn more about StrongMind please visit us on the web https://www.soldierstrong.org/strongmind/
SoldierStrong, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing revolutionary medical technologies to help injured veterans lead full lives, today announced a year-long partnership with Honor and Respect to benefit veterans throughout the country living with post-traumatic stress.
Honor and Respect is a Marion, Iowa, firm launched in 2018 by U.S. Air Force veteran Ron Slagle and his family to raise funds to aid first responders and military personnel, who “devote their lives to helping all of us” and are caught in the midst of the mental health crisis through the sale of one-of-a-kind athletic shoes. Slagle said Honor and Respect will donate a share of its proceeds from every purchase of its shoes to SoldierStrong’s StrongMind initiative, which seeks to reduce the disturbingly high national average of 20 veteran suicides a day. Through the partnership, SoldierStrong will receive $10 of every purchase of Honor and Respect’s shoes.
“I believe it is all of our responsibility to offer help to those who have dedicated their lives to helping all of us, either through service in the military or as first responders,” said Slagle, a Marion police officer. “Those experiencing PTS should not have to live through their symptoms alone and aside from honoring all of those who have served, we must also make sure that the very best in treatment is available to those who may need it. I feel empowered to be partnering with SoldierStrong in an effort to further guarantee that appropriate PTS treatment is widely and readily available.”
The StrongMind initiative donates virtual reality systems to Veterans Administration medical centers across the country to assist in treating veterans experiencing PTS. The StrongMind initiative has donated 14 VR software and hardware systems to the VA since September.
“Honor and Respect is a remarkable demonstration of patriotism and compassion by an outstanding family from America’s heartland. SoldierStrong is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Honor and Respect as we work both to ensure that those who have served our nation are provided the resources they need to help them take their next steps forward into life after service,” said Chris Meek, SoldierStrong co-founder and chairman. “The Slagle family’s desire to donate a share of Honor and Respect’s proceeds to SoldierStrong will provide direct care for veterans coping with the effects of post-traumatic stress.”
He continued, “It’s important that all revolutionary technologies to treat PTS are available to any and all veterans who might benefit from these services. That’s why it is SoldierStrong’s mission to get the StrongMind program into as many VA Hospitals as possible, so that the greatest number of veterans can have access and the chance to benefit from the effective technology in an effort to relieve their PTS symptoms.”