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.