Often individuals with catastrophic injuries or spinal cord disease must manage secondary conditions that are part of the complication of paralysis. When care is not delivered with true coordination methods, those conditions can reduce quality of life and in some cases become life threatening. Thus, care for individuals with spinal cord injury or disease (SCI/D) requires a holistic approach. Collaboration among a multidisciplinary team of health professionals is critical.
That’s where Summit steps in. Paralyzed Veterans of America’s (Paralyzed Veterans) annual Healthcare Summit (Summit) unites the medical community toward the goal of improving the quality of life and care for individuals afflicted with SCI/D. Physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, therapists, researchers, pharmacists, dietitians, and educators present best practices and evidence-based models to share with their peers who experience similar challenges.
This year, more than 900 medical professionals and veteran advocates gathered at Summit to learn and exchange ideas. For one physical therapist, Samanda Vasquez, DPT, PT, Summit provides an outlet to learn from her peers and leave with practical takeaways that she can apply at her clinic.
“I love the opportunity to meet new people—to meet members of Paralyzed Veterans of America—outside of the hospital setting. You become friends and family. You learn a lot and bring that information back to your clinic. It’s important to go to these events, not just to support your local chapter and to support Paralyzed Veterans, but to educate yourself and move forward with our profession so we can give the best therapy to our veterans.”
Thought leaders from around the country come to Summit to speak, share, and provide insight into the latest medical advancements towards SCI/D treatment and care. The brightest minds in their fields present practical strategies and best practices to attendees in more than 22 CEU-qualifying sessions over three educationally packed days.
Paralyzed Veterans is also the only veterans’ service organization to provide scholarship packages. More than 500 scholarships are awarded annually to qualifying clinicians to cover the cost of the hotel and the event. Karen Noblitt, a regular Summit attendee and a scholarship recipient, says the scholarship packages “make learning critical information in her field possible.”
“In the clinic, you read articles when you can find the time; but, at the Summit, you can sit down and take that block of time to take it all in. The scholarship makes that possible. The conference, the flight, your hotel…it adds up, and the average physical therapist can’t afford that. For a lot of people, the scholarship makes attending possible,” she adds.
Paralyzed Veterans’ Summit focuses on the unique challenges that veterans with SCI/D face. This year, Paralyzed Veterans expanded its commitment to spinal cord injury/disease (SCI/D) by providing more tracks around, MS, ALS, mental health and TBI patient care and their affect on the veteran population. Physical therapist, Cynthia Lechner, built her career around helping veterans. A regular Summit attendee and scholarship recipient, Cindy enjoys the exchange of ideas and information, and the opportunity to meet her colleagues working in VAs across the country.
“The Summit is a good way to meet people from across the country—in and out of the VA—and compare treatment plans. It’s a good way to learn. We talk about what we can offer to our veterans and bring that back to our patients,” she says.
Paralyzed Veterans’ Associate Executive Director of Medical Services and the Summit’s founder, Lana McKenzie, spearheads this important mission-serving initiative and has seen it grow exponentially each year, as its value reputation has grown. “Since its founding seven years ago, Paralyzed Veterans’ Summit has worked to ensure the best quality health care for our nation’s veterans with SCI/D, and has expanded that commitment to serve all individuals affected by spinal cord disease. Paralyzed Veterans is the only veterans’ service organization that hosts an annual healthcare summit of this kind, advancing SCI/D care, collaboration and knowledge worldwide. We are proud to have this opportunity to positively impact not only veterans care but care for all individuals who are living with these conditions, and continue to support the dedicated frontline staff who are responsible for delivering it,” she concluded.