Thursday, September 6, 2007

Military Advanced Training Center slated to open Thursday at WRAMC

Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Roger J. Mommaerts Jr.

An artist’s rendition shows how the completed Military Advanced Training Center at Walter Reed will look from the north side of the hospital.
The grand opening of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) Military Advanced Training Center (MATC) is Thursday at 11 a.m. The facility will offer rehabilitating Soldiers cutting-edge equipment located in a single location and designed for ease of use. Dignitaries and thousands of visitors are expected on post to tour the new facility Thursday.

With sophisticated computer and video monitoring systems and the latest prosthetics, MATCís mission is to enhance amputee and functional limb loss patient care. The 31,000 square-foot facility will house more than 15 specialties, including physicians, nurse case managers, therapists, psychologists, social workers, benefits counselors and representatives of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Retired Col. Charles Scoville, WRAMCís chief of Amputee Service, said the building is designed to bring together the multi-disciplinary team that cares for Warriors in Transition. ìOur team will provide care from initial surgery through reintegration of Warriors to their units or a seamless transition to Veterans Administration care,î Scoville said.

The MATC contains a myriad of clinical features and enhancements. The Center for Performance and Clinical Research, known as the gait lab, measures strides, but according to Scoville, MATC researchers are measuring far more than a runner’s gait.

Scoville said data collected by engineers will play a significant role in assuring proper prosthetic fit and alignment, appropriate foot or knee selection. The gait lab contains six calibrated force plates — four for walking and two longer plates for running. It also includes a dual force-plate treadmill to conduct running analysis and research protocols for prolonged activity. The system has 23 infra-red cameras mounted around the room to gather data . The current system uses only eight cameras. “This makes collaborative research opportunities within this facility virtually limitless,” Scoville said.

Another MATC innovation is the Computer Assisted Rehab Environment (CAREN), designed to build a virtual environment around a patient performing tasks on a treadmill bolted to a helicopter simulator, the CAREN uses a video capture system similar to the traditional gait lab, but with an interactive platform that responds to the patient’s every move. “There are only three CAREN systems like this one in the world,” Scoville said. “Its platform is so sensitive you can stand a pencil on its end and the platform will keep it vertical.”

The CAREN can also assist Warriors recovering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by reintroducing patients to both simple and complex environments, measuring their performance while ensuring absolute safety. “We can continually add stressors,” Scoville said. “We can start with the patient walking on an empty street and gradually add parked cars, traffic, pedestrians and noise. We’ll take the patient to the edge of discomfort, but not beyond what they can handle.”

Warriors in Transition will be able to communicate via video teleconference (VTC) with units in Iraq, Afghanistan or Family back home by reserving the Telemedicine Conference Room.

Scoville noted that doctors, nurses and medics in the combat zone and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center can also follow their patients’ progress. “The Soldier can communicate with the people who took care of them at each step of their treatment,” Scoville said. “It gives the medical people in-theater a chance to see how they’re doing, which they normally wouldn’t have.”

Additionally, MATC includes a rope climb and rock wall, uneven terrain and incline parallel bars, vehicular simulators, a Fire Arms Training Simulator (FATS), physical therapy athletic and exercise areas, an occupational therapy clinic, prosthetic training and skills training areas, prosthetic adjustment and fitting rooms and separate exam rooms for all amputee-related care. The 225-foot indoor track surrounding the second floor interior boasts the world’s first oval support harness. “It allows the Soldiers to walk or run without a therapist tethered to them,” Scoville said, adding that patients can recover more quickly because the therapist is free to provide immediate feedback to the patient while observing their gait.

“We got a lot for the money,” Scoville said. The $10 million center augments the capabilities of existing WRAMC facilities and supports the goal of returning to duty multi-skilled leaders who personify the Warrior Ethos in all aspects. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, it was constructed three months ahead of schedule in cooperation with the U.S. Army Health Facilities Planning Agency and Turner Construction Company.

Maj. David Rozelle, MATC project officer, credited the early completion date to teamwork. “This has been a balancing act, which is why we could install equipment at the same time we put in flooring and completed other elements of the building.”