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Stallworth makes select list of brain injury rehab centers

Sep. 24, 2015, 9:23 AM

Physical therapist Carlie Baker works with patient Dot Lee at Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital, which has been accredited by the Joint Commission for traumatic brain injury rehabilitation. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital’s performance at helping people with traumatic brain injuries reconnect with their lives has received Joint Commission recognition and is now one of only seven rehab centers to achieve specialty accreditation for “traumatic brain injury rehabilitation.”

The designation is the latest in a series of events that have raised the profile of the 80-bed hospital.

A year ago, it opened an outpatient clinic. A month ago, it welcomed its first class of medical residents.

Walter Frontera, M.D., Ph.D., set those events in motion when he came to Vanderbilt in April 2012 to be the first chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and to develop an academic program. The department is headquartered within Vanderbilt Stallworth — a joint venture between VUMC and HealthSouth.

“The idea here is to create a continuum of care for these patients from the moment they come to the Trauma Center to inpatient rehab to outpatient services,” Frontera said. “That’s really the ultimate objective.”

Dot Lee, who was airlifted to VUMC with a brain injury after an August vehicle crash, transferred to the rehabilitation hospital, where she is working on her balance and ambulatory skills. The 82-year-old plans to be home in Franklin County to see the colors change this fall.

Patient Dot Lee works on her balance and ambulatory skills with physical therapist Carlie Baker at Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital. (photo by Susan Urmy)

“You can sit on our front porch and see the mountains all around when they start coloring up,” she said. “Just from day to day, you can tell a big change in the handiwork of the Lord.”

She’s gotten help at the hospital from Carlie Baker, a physical therapist, and Beverly Stevens, an occupational therapist. The two also co-chaired the effort to achieve the specialty accreditation.

That effort required an interdisciplinary initiative involving every person at the hospital who comes into contact with patients, Baker said.

Stevens said the process heightened her appreciation for educating patients and their families.

“Education starts day one,” Stevens said. “Everything that we do here is to prepare them for going home.”

Vanderbilt Stallworth already had specialty accreditations for stroke rehabilitation and spinal cord rehabilitation. The additional designation validates the quality of care for current patients with traumatic brain injuries and ensures that proper protocols are in place for future ones, said Jeffery Johns, M.D., the hospital’s medical director.

Vanderbilt Stallworth, which has been a part of the Vanderbilt campus since 1993 operating under its own certificate of need, is now a full partner in academics and research. Patients will benefit from that mission, Johns said.

“We want to take this a step above just providing good care,” Johns said. “We want to constantly challenge ourselves, to raise the bar on our outcomes, to set and achieve specific measures and to make sure that we are practicing evidence-based medicine as well as working to develop practice-based evidence.”

Oscar Guillamondegui, M.D., director of the Vanderbilt Multidisciplinary Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, said the stronger partnership between VUMC and Vanderbilt Stallworth is integral to seamless care.

“Traumatic brain injury is an epidemic in this country,” Guillamondegui said. “The continuum of care required to manage these patients from time of injury to time of discharge from rehab is extremely important. Having a close connection with a traumatic brain injury center allows the patient and the physician to both have a more integral part in the rehabilitation and a long-term improvement in outcomes.”

About 2.4 million children and adults in the United States sustain a traumatic brain injury every year, according to the Brain Injury Association of America.

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