USF Health seeks grant to study brain injuries

USF Health is attempting to attain federal funds to support research for wounded soldiers, specifically those afflicted with a serious brain injury.

In partnership with the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, USF Health hopes to tap into a $450 million federal grant created by the National Defense Authorization Act. This money is intended to be distributed to various institutions to study traumatic brain injury (TBI).

TBI occurs when foreign objects pierce the skull and puncture brain tissue or when the head abruptly and violently hits an object. Military doctors have called TBI the signature injury of the war in Iraq, according to Discover Magazine.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said she put language into the act that gives USF and the Veterans’ Hospital a better chance at getting the federal money, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Although plans for the grant money are nowhere near a conclusion, parties from both USF Health and the Veterans’ Hospital are confident that their partnership puts them in high contention for some of it.

“USF, in collaboration with the (Veterans’ Hospital), will aggressively pursue whatever funds are available for wounded (soldiers) with TBI,” said Anne Delotto Baier, spokeswoman for USF Health. “We are in a very good position for a significant amount of these funds because of our close proximity to the VA Center and MacDill U.S. Central Command.”

USF Health and the Veterans’ Hospital Center are located opposite each other on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. MacDill Air Force Base is in South Tampa.

Susan Wentzell, public affairs specialist for the Veterans’ Hospital, said that getting the money would benefit USF and the hospital.

“We think it will be a great opportunity for the school, hospital, community and veterans,” she said.

Baier said the partnership would more than likely provide an excellent opportunity for medical students to participate in the research. It would also allow USF to build its national image.

“Whenever you could get a program of this magnitude, it helps reinforce your national reputation,” she said. “We’ve laid the foundation to attract some of these funds when they become available.”

The hospital houses one of only four polytrauma centers in the nation – and one of the busiest, Baier said. It is the only polytrauma center in the Southeast, with the others located in California, Minnesota and Virginia.

Baier said it is important to be a part of TBI research because it benefits those returning from war. It helps those who have been fighting for freedom, she said.

“We want to give them that freedom back,” Baier said.