The Military’s Medical Alternatives

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Wounded troops at Fort Bragg play sled hockey

Complementary and alternative medicine — CAM — also known as integrated medicine, or complementary healing, is alive and well in military medicine.

I recently attended part of a exciting symposium on the subject at the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., sponsored by Walter Reed and the University of Pittsburgh.  Army Colonel Paul Pasquina, chief of rehabilitation for many years, put the state-of-the-art session together.

There were sessions on service dogs by Lieut. Colonel Matt St. Laurent, equine therapy by retired colonel Barbara Springer, and adaptive therapy for wounded service members.

In brief: the military is doing an incredible amount to rehabilitate wounded service members. That is not new news. But the breadth and depth of what they are doing is incredible.

An update in adaptive sports was presented by Dr. Rory Cooper, of the University of Pittsburgh. They are doing tremendous work getting wounded service members into skiing, basketball and the Para Olympics. We even heard of a now-blind sniper who still hunts.

One of the take-home points for me was how the military is a leading institution that can push the whole field of disability sports into the mainstream. And not just for the military, but for the civilian population as well.

This is far from the only conference on the subject of complementary medicine.  For several years, Captain Bob Koffman and I, along with colleagues, have been presenting at the American Psychiatric Association, the Boston Red Sox Home Base program, and other forums about the use of CAM including yoga, acupuncture, and therapy dogs. The sessions are always well-attended by an enthusiastic audience.

So key take-aways:

— All people, including those with disabilities, benefit from recreation and exercise.

— Wounded service members can be leaders in putting the disability issues in the forefront.

— And the Army leads the way. Army Strong!