Iowa Brain Injury Conference Celebrates Fifteen Years

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The Brain Injury Association of Iowa’s Best Practices in Brain Injury Service Delivery: XV occurred last week in Des Moines. The conference hosted over 300 brain injury professionals and consumers marking the fifteenth anniversary of the conference. The event was extremely well planned and a high quality conference in all respects. The featured conference faculty included Geoffrey Lauer, MA, the newly appointed Executive Director of the Brain Injury Association of Iowa; Ron Savage, Ed.D.; Rick Parente, Ph.D. and Ann Pearson, Ms and Scott Franzen, BS. Mr. Lauer’s address focused on the view to the future and identified the important issues facing brain injury professionals. His talk touched on the issue of the changes in survivor population, including the problems faced by individuals injured in the military. Dr. Savage’s presentation highlighted teaching and learning as a major component of rehabilitation across the age spectrum. Dr. Savage followed up his keynote address with other sessions regarding detecting concussion in students and medications used with younger individuals with brain injury. His expertise and lonstanding contributions to brain injury were in evidence in his presentations. Dr. Rick Parente from Towson State University provided extremely pragmatic information about assistive and orthotic cognitive devices. Dr. Parente’s lectures were filled with strategies that come from his years as a senior researcher and cognitive therapist. A panel discussion involving family members was chaired by Kathy Herring, who brings her personal experiences as a family member to bear in her work with survivors and their families.

A highlight of the conference was a presentation by my colleague, Mike Mason who describe the medical journey for individuals who received a brain injury in Iraq. Mike has recently returned from a visit to the military hospitals at Balad, Landstuhl and Walter Read. His presentation at the conference, which included audio and video records of his interviews with injured servicemen, physicians and nurses was emotionally laden for every participant, yet it provided a factual record of the advances in trauma medicine and the heroic efforts to preserve human life occurring in the field hospitals in Iraq. It was disturbing to know that the Iraqi children and adults who were treated at Balad alongside our military would receive little if any follow-up care or rehabilitation follow their discharge due to the disrupted healthcare system in their country. Mike’s presentation brought the issues of our military personnel with traumatic brain injury into a sharp focus. These young people present the new face of the brain injury survivor who we will encounter in civilian life as the physicians and trauma specialists return from their military duty to work in civilian hospitals. We will see more people survive devastating injury as a result of improved medical technology created by these individuals as well as by advances in new medicines. The changing survivor will require that rehabilitation take a new course to meet the needs of these individuals, including over the course of their lives.

I was pleased to be a part of this conference and to offer my work on Life Span Considerations for Individuals with Brain Injury. The Iowa conference is tops among the state brain injury association conferences. Iowa has worked diligently over the years to create programs and funding for their citizens. The inter-agency cooperation is in evidence and the strong leadership of the Brain Injury Association has positively influenced the pro rehabilitation culture of the state.

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