ALBANY, Ga. – Military men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who suffer symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are eligible to participate in a voluntary research study at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.
The voluntary research effort involving cognitive behavioral therapy has been approved and the study was officially opened last week during a news conference at Phoebe. During the news conference, Phoebe President/CEO Joel Wernick and Congressman Sanford Bishop talked briefly about the importance of offering this special initiative impacting Southwest Georgia veterans.
“Looking into just the Guard and the reserve here, this state has close to 14,000 members,” Wernick said. “Of those, over 10,000 are truly civilians and, of that, there are over 2,000 just here in Southwest Georgia, so there’s a sizeable population who have been put at risk over the last 10 years.”
Research will determine whether therapy provided through telemedicine, or telepsychiatry, is at least as effective as the traditional face-to-face therapy, said Steve Ziemba, Phoebe’s director of Clinical Research. He explained that using telemedicine is “like using video conferencing, but for a medical purpose.”
Ziemba explained that many veterans do not live near Phoebe’s primary treatment center in Albany. “We now have a system where the patients can receive therapy at any of our six remote locations using cameras and monitors,” he said.
Remote equipment that will be used in the research therapy is in place at Phoebe East, Phoebe West, and in Phoebe Family Medicine Clinics in Ashburn, Sylvester, Lee County and Camilla.
Bishop, who was instrumental as a member of the House Appropriations Committee in securing $1.6 million to fund the study, said during the news conference that this nation is indebted to its returning servicemen and women.
“We owe them,” Bishop said. “We have a tremendous obligation to make sure that when they return that we are there for them to help them through whatever injuries they may have incurred.”
Applications to participate in the study are being accepted now. Eligibility requirements for veterans also include that applicants be between the ages of 18 and 45. If an applicant has not been diagnosed with PTSD, but is experiencing symptoms, an evaluation for the disorder may be made, said Ziemba.
“We’re excited that we might make a difference, not just in the serviceman’s life, but in the family’s life because this is truly a disorder that impacts the entire family,” said Wernick.
To learn more about the study, call Ziemba at 229-312-0284.