Rancho coalition returns from spinal cord conference in Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center sent four clinical and research leaders to Washington, D.C. last week for the kickoff conference for the new Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems Centers Program.The Rancho delegation was headed by Chief Medical Officer Mindy Aisen, M.D., who will be directing the world-renowned hospital's efforts on the prestigious Model Systems Centers Program, which includes 14 of the nation's premier spinal cord injury centers. Dr. Yaga Szlachcic, who will be leading the clinical program, and Drs. Sara Mulroy and Philip Requejo, who will be leading the research program, were also part of the Rancho team. The kickoff conference included a number of wide-ranging sessions, including a special meeting held at the White House. "The fact that this meeting was held at the White House underscores the importance of the Model Systems program in the future of rehabilitation medicine," said Rancho Chief Executive Officer Jorge Orozco. "Rancho is proud to be one recognized as one of the very best spinal cord injury centers in the nation. We look forward to building upon our capabilities by participating in this industry-leading program." "Our clinical strategy at Rancho is very simple," Dr. Aisen said. "We intend to continue to provide the best possible care for our patients, and to do so we need to remain at the cutting edge of clinical practice and advanced technology. One of the wonderful things about the model systems program is that we will be collaborating with many of our most talented colleagues throughout the nation over the next five years to help develop advances to help patients with spinal cord injury." The Southern California Spinal Cord Injury Model System at Rancho is a collaboration between Rancho and the Keck School of Medicine of USC. "USC Drs. Helena Chui, Demetrios Demetriades, Carolee Winstein, and Florence Clark, as well as many other leaders at the Keck School of Medicine will be involved in our team," Dr. Aisen said. "We often work together with our colleagues at USC and other major universities to help us remain at the cutting edge of research and clinical practice." Dr. Szlachcic was very impressed with her first-ever trip to the White House. "I was honored to represent my Rancho colleagues at this meeting," she said. "I had goose bumps when I entered the White House complex, and I was in total awe of the majesty and beauty of the building. It also brought home in a very real way how important this Model Systems program is to spinal cord injury patients across the nation. "It was also inspiring to see the breadth of federal support for this program, which included not only NIDDR, but the National Institutes for Health, the Department of Health and Human Services and many other organizations across the federal healthcare landscape," Dr. Szlachcic said. The Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems Centers Program was established in 1970, and is conducted under the auspices of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). Its goal has been to improve care and outcomes for individuals with spinal cord injury. The model systems approach is based on research that demonstrated the superiority of comprehensive versus fragmented spinal cord injury care. The 14 Spinal Cord Injury Model System Centers currently funded by NIDRR provide a multidisciplinary system of rehabilitation care ranging from emergency services through rehabilitation and re-entry into full community life. Model System centers also conduct research, provide education and disseminate information with the goal of improving long-term functional, vocational, cognitive, and quality-of-life outcomes for individuals with spinal cord injury. Each model systems center will conduct research and contribute data to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center located at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. "Rancho Brings specialized expertise to the program in several key areas," Dr. Aisen said. "This is principally due to our longstanding record in pathokinesiology created at the Rancho Pathokinesiology Laboratory established by the legendary Dr. Jacquelin Perry and continued by Dr. Perry and her team, now headed by her protégé Dr. Sara Mulroy." Rancho's seminal work in understanding shoulder mechanics and pain, as well as developing protocols to best align arms and shoulders when they become the limbs of locomotion after a spinal cord injury occurs, have helped establish best practices in these areas. Another important factor is the expertise of Dr. Requejo, who has developed protocols for using position activity monitor systems for comprehensive monitoring of health and activity in the community for persons with spinal cord injury. In addition, the groundbreaking work of Dr. Szlachcic, who has published extensively about issues related to women's health and the impact of spinal injury on endocrine and cardiovascular systems, will continue to play a key role in Rancho's efforts. Rancho will now contribute to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center located at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. The Statistical Center tracks the long-term consequences of spinal cord injury and conducts research in the areas of medical rehabilitation, health and wellness, technology, service delivery, short- and long-term interventions, and systems research. "In addition to conducting research on its own and in concert with other institutions, the Rancho-USC team will contribute data to the Statistical Center on pre-injury, injury, acute care, and rehabilitation services and reports of outcomes at one and five years post-injury and every five years thereafter," Dr. Aisen said. "This is the largest spinal cord injury database in the world. It is also a rich source of data for researchers. "The clinical excellence of the Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems program has provided the foundation from which clinical research focusing on key health issues of persons with spinal cord injury has grown dramatically," Dr. Aisen said. "The program is one of many ways that Rancho is advancing the art and science of rehabilitation medicine, and leading the way in the future of spinal cord injury treatment for our patients." For further information, call the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation at (562) 401-7053 or visit rancho.org, facebook.com/rancholosamigosrehab or twitter.com/ranchorehab.

********** Published: November 24, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 32