In 2013, The Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center (“SSC”) continued to make great strides in its two main program areas: a public awareness campaign to bring light to the challenges of post-deployment illnesses and toxic wounds, and a research and educationprogram to support independent medical research and provider education dedicated to confronting and eradicating these illnesses.
Research and Education. The SSC continued to solidify relationships with premiere healthcare institutions engaged in efforts to confront deployment related disease by providing medical research and education grants. An SSC matching challenge Research Grant initiative leveraged $15,000 in SSC funds to help raise $45,000 for a research project on developing a non-surgical method of diagnosing deployment-related lung disease at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado. This Research Grant marked the beginning of the SSC’s matching challenge grants program to help define post-deployment illnesses through medical research through identification of biomarkers for known illnesses. In March 2013, SSC provided Education Grants so that medical doctors could attend the 2nd Annual Symposium on Lung Health After Deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan at SUNY Medical School in Stony Brook, New York.
SSC collected feedback from veterans and scientists on the draft online open burn pits registry self-assessment questionnaire, which will be used to track the health impacts of exposures to airborne toxins for post-9/11 veterans and ’91 Persian Gulf War Veterans. SSC submitted comments to VA based on the collected feedback, and VA made revisions of the questionnaire that were responsive to SSC comments.
Public Awareness. SSC continued to break the silence about post-deployment illnesses with social media, speaking engagements and press outreach. SSC provided presentations on confronting deployment related illnesses at a Bob Woodruff Foundation convening in April 2013 and at the VA/DoD Airborne Hazards Symposium in August 2013. SSC spread awareness about legislation (Rep. Bishop’s Helping Veterans Exposed to Toxic Chemicals Act) to create innovative healthcare options at for veterans with post-deployment illnesses. SSC’s Marine Corps Marathon Team ran on October 27, 2013 and raised awareness about post-deployment illnesses and SSC research and education programs.
SSC provided financial support (mini travel grants) to send veterans to Nashville to participate in the testing of the VA’s airborne hazards and open burn pit online registry and to help veterans and family members attend the 2nd Lung Health Symposium. SSC provided a mini travel grant so that Burnpits360, a toxic exposure advocacy group, could send a representative to Washington to make a presentation at the VA/DoD airborne hazards symposium.
SSC held the Third Awards Reception for Excellence in Post-Deployment Health Science on October 29, 2013 at the Pew Charitable Trusts Conference Center in Washington. This year Dr. Richard Meehan and Dr. Cecile Rose of National Jewish Health received the SSC’s 2013 Excellence Award in Deployment Health Science. The event included guests from Veterans Service Organizations, government agencies, congressional offices, and healthcare and research institutions.