VISN 17 Center of Excellence
Welcome to the VISN 17 Center of Excellence
The VISN 17 Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans (VISN 17 CoE) is located at the historic campus of the Doris Miller VA Medical Center in Waco, Texas. The Doris Miller medical campus opened in 1932 and was one of the first hospitals built by the VA, which was primarily designated as a psychiatric facility, and currently hosts 11 mental health programs and our premier research facility.
There are currently three congressionally mandated “Centers of Excellence” in the nation; one specializing in the study of suicide prevention (Canandaigua, NY), one specializing in the study of stress-related mental health issues (San Diego, CA), and the VISN 17 CoE which specializes in the study of the development, progression, and treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Waco VA campus was chosen by Congress to host the VISN 17 CoE in 2006 to conduct specialty research on our country’s returning Post-9/11 veteran population, which include veterans enlisted in any of the military branches during the Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and Operation New Dawn (OND) campaigns.
With our proximity to Fort Hood (one of the largest active duty U.S. military installations), several reserve and National Guard units, and the heavy concentration of discharged veterans in the Central Texas region, there are more than 35,000 unique OEF/OIF/OND veterans registered in the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System (CTVHCS) and more than 40,000 active duty military service members in our catchment area. Recent census data conducted by Fort Hood indicated that there were an additional 316,380 family members (including spouses and children, retirees, and survivors of deceased veterans) residing in the Central Texas region, which provide an additional rich population to assist in the evaluation of families impacted by symptoms of posttraumatic stress and resiliency in military families.
In alignment with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) statutory missions, the VISN 17 CoE conducts several education and training programs for health profession students to enhance the quality of care provided to veteran patients within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) healthcare systems. In accordance with this mission, "To educate for VA and for the Nation", education and training efforts are accomplished through coordinated programs and activities with academic affiliates in our community. Affiliates include institutions such as Baylor University, Texas A&M Health Science Center, University of Texas-Dallas, and Tarleton State University, where the VISN 17 CoE has developed tiered training programs (see Training Programs) for undergraduate students to post-doctoral graduates to develop high quality future clinical providers and research professionals to meet patient care needs within VA and the nation.
The VISN 17 Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans was tasked by Congress1,2 to:
• Study post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions experienced by Veterans returning from recent military conflicts, including Operations Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn
• Leverage the relationship between the Waco VA Medical Center and Fort Hood to further research on post-traumatic stress disorder
• Serve as a specialized facility for mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder, supporting Waco and the Central Texas Health Care System with clinical expertise and educational support
We are true to our mission and unifying theme by remaining clinically focused on new and innovative treatments for those mental health conditions common among returning Veterans, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
1. Committee Reports 109th Congress (2005-2006) House Report 109-305
2. Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2006
Through the study of numerous neurological, genetic, and psychological factors, our Center uses a comprehensive approach to develop advanced approaches for assessing and treating several issues that are often experienced by Veterans returning from theaters of war, including but not limited to:
• Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
• Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
• Substance Use Disorders (SUDs)
• Relationship problems
• Problems accessing care
• Re-integration distress/adjustment issues
• Chronic pain