Rehabilitation Medicine Wins Grant for Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems

A research team in the Miller School’s Department of Rehabilitation Medicine has been awarded a federal Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems grant for more than $2 million. Funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the five-year grant will enhance rehabilitation services and research aimed at meeting the special needs of brain-injured individuals progressing through the clinical continuum, from emergency care to rehabilitation and community re-entry.

The Miller School is among 16 sites nationally that were awarded the prestigious U.S. Department of Education grant through a highly competitive selection process.

Doug Johnson-Greene, Ph.D., M.P.H., ABPP, associate professor and Associate Vice Chair of Rehabilitation Medicine, and his team will partner with Jackson Health System, HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Miami, and a number of community organizations — including the Brain Injury Association of Florida, the Florida Department of Health’s Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Program, and the WellFlorida Council — to establish the South Florida Traumatic Brain Injury Model System (SF-TBIMS).

“This grant represents significant recognition of our innovative research in traumatic brain injury and excellence in clinical care for the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and the University of Miami,” said Johnson-Greene, who is principal investigator.

In addition to Johnson-Greene, the team includes Elizabeth Felix, Ph.D., assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine and research health scientist at the Miami VA; Shirin Shafazad, M.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine; Gemayaret Alvarez, M.D., Director of Inpatient Brain Injury Rehabilitation at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and David Kushner, M.D., Director of Brain Injury Rehabilitation at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Miami.

Under the program, grantees will work locally on UM-specific projects and on a separate collaborative project with colleagues from other TBIMS sites across the country.

Shafazad will lead the primary SF-TBIMS research project, titled “Evaluation and Intervention of Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) in Persons with Traumatic Brain Injury,” which will examine the impact of sleep-disordered breathing on cognitive functioning, recovery and mood, and whether the use of a device to improve air flow during sleep improves quality of life.

Felix, co-principal investigator, will lead a pilot project to validate methods for objective measurement of pain in people with cognitive impairments.

The Miller School also was awarded a Spinal Cord Model Injury program grant last year, which is directed by Diana Cardenas, M.D., M.H.A., Chair of Rehabilitation Medicine.

“This will make us one of a select group of rehabilitation medicine departments in the country that have both a spinal cord injury and a traumatic brain injury model system program,” Cardenas said.

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