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November 2, 2011

University of Missouri gets funds for combat medical research

By Janese Silvey
Columbia Daily Tribune

COLUMBIA, Mo. — With blinking eyes, a breathing chest and a steady pulse, the simulation mannequin now used to train combat medics is pretty realistic — down to the Army fatigues and leg tourniquet.

But does it — or other current models used in medic training — actually help servicemen and -women when they're responding to injuries on the battlefield? The University of Missouri has been awarded a $5.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to find out.

"We need to get away from the 'gee-whiz, wow' factor and actually have scientific data to show us whether it's effective in training," said Stephen Barnes, chief of the division of acute care surgery at the MU School of Medicine.

Barnes is the principal investigator leading a team of 30 military and medical experts across the country to form the new Combat Casualty Training Consortium. The group will analyze medical information collected on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. These are the first conflicts in which the military has recorded in real time the treatment soldiers received from the point of injury to the hospital.

Once they narrow down which strategies proved most effective in real-life combat situations, researchers will then determine how to train future medics to use those techniques.

Within two years, the group hopes to have a standardized training curriculum that will replace the various curricula now used to train medics in the Air Force, Army, Navy and other military agencies.

Barnes expects that work also will shed light on how current training models, such as the mannequin soldier or virtual technology, should be improved to make training more reflective of what medics experience in combat.

MU administrators today announced the grant at the Reynolds Alumni Center, joining representatives from partner institutes including the University of Alabama-Birmingham, the University of South Florida and the University of Central Florida.

MU is leading the project, in part, because of its existing Level I trauma center and the state-of-the art simulation center, said Bob Churchill, dean of the medical school.

For the Department of Defense, the project represents a significant new initiative, said Col. Karl Friedl, director of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center.

"The elements of this consortium bring together the best of medical training and modern technologies" to "enable more effective, agile and affordable options to meet future training requirements," he said in a statement.

Although the study is expected to improve the medical care soldiers receive, Barnes said he expects the findings to translate into improved care for other patients back home.

"These training methods will find their way into university hospitals," he said. "More effective care on the battlefield will equal more effective and safer care in our hospitals."

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