Headed by the efforts of McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty member, Rory Cooper, PhD (pictured right), professors and doctors from University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Services and UPMC’s Neuromuscular Research Laboratories hosted a visit from Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek (pictured left), head of the U.S. Army’s Warrior Care and Transition Program. An anticipated outcome of the visit is the establishment of an Army Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) in Pittsburgh.
It was due to unprecedented survival rates of soldiers, limited resources, and a cumbersome bureaucracy, that a “perfect storm” and a nightmare scenario for wounded soldiers was forged. In 2007, revelations about the shoddy outpatient care at Walter Reed Medical Center burst into the national consciousness. To rectify the situation, on June 14, 2007, the U.S. Army announced a series of improvements for wounded soldiers' medical care and outpatient assistance including the national establishment June 15 of WTUs at the Army's major installations nationwide.
The WTU mission is to facilitate the healing and rehabilitation of soldiers, return them to duty when possible, or to prepare them for a successful life as a veteran in their community. A WTU offers extensive help to wounded, ill, or injured soldiers who will take 6 months or longer to heal. The program includes assistance to their families.
"UPMC is at the cutting edge of intellectual thinking about how to return injured people to productive roles in society," Brig. Gen. Cheek said.
Dr. Cooper, director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories at Pitt, is a decorated U.S. Army veteran who uses a wheelchair as a result of the injuries he suffered during his military service. Dr. Cooper is one of the world's foremost authorities on wheelchair design.
Dr. Cooper's example as well as the knowledge and expertise of the research labs will be helpful to the Warrior Care program, Brig. Gen. Cheek said.
"Rory is a role model for anyone who has suffered a serious injury," the general said.
"I hope very much we'll be able to get a community-based Warrior Transition Unit here," Dr. Cooper said. "Pittsburgh has so much to offer."
WTUs replaced units such as medical hold companies or rear detachments that previously functioned as temporary holding units for soldiers needing to convalesce. Soldiers and their families are assigned a treatment team through the WTU. A physician/nurse case manager/ military squad leader triad works together to help each soldier and family in the healing process. This personalized attention and treatment plan leads to better care and increased morale.
Illustration: Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek (left) and Dr. Rory Cooper (right). Rebecca Droke/ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (01/14/09)
Stars and Stripes (02/25/08)
DC Military.com (01/24/08)
U. S. Department of Defense (04/25/07)
Bio: Dr. Rory Cooper