Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin
on Thursday announced plans for a new program aimed at treating traumatic brain injury in military veterans and first responders.
The program, known as BRAVE (Building Resilience through Action in Veterans and First Responders) will launch in fall thanks to a $12.5 million gift from the Avalon Action Alliance
, a national nonprofit focused on the mental wellness of veterans and first responders experiencing the effects of TBI, post-traumatic stress and other psychological disorders.
Housed at the Froedtert & MCW Greenfield Highlands Health Center on South 108th St., the program is the first of its kind in the Midwest. It will be the sixth treatment center for the Avalon Action Alliance, which has locations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tulane University, MossRehab in Philadelphia, and in Atlanta. The network also includes several partner locations across the U.S.
“When we looked for a partner to build our veteran alliance, the Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin Neuroscience Institute immediately stood out as a global leader,” said Joe Brennan, chief executive officer of the Avalon Action Alliance. “Their history of developing medical treatments and conducting research to increase our knowledge of brain injuries and trauma is remarkable."
BRAVE is expected to welcome its first patient by Sept. 1. Program participants will undergo a three-week, intensive outpatient program customized to treat the unique needs of patients suffering from mild traumatic brain injury, or mTBI, also known as concussion.
The program will conduct detailed clinical evaluations and develop a customized treatment plan that targets each individual’s needs and how to best support their recovery.
TBI can cause symptoms such as cognitive impairment, mood changes, sensory challenges and memory loss. Since 2001, about one of every three military veterans have returned from war with symptoms of PTSD and TBI. Currently, 20 U.S. veterans die by suicide each day, according to the Avalon Action Alliance.
"What we have planned here for the Avalon program, it's big and it's bold. Our position here is nothing less would meet the mark in meeting the needs for people who have dedicated their lives to service and protection of all of us," said Michael McCrea, professor of neurosurgery and neurology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, director of the BRAVE program and co-director of MCW’s Center for Neurotrauma Research. "That challenge suits us just fine here at MCW and Froedtert Health."
Beyond serving the needs of veterans and first responders in southeastern Wisconsin, BRAVE is expected to draw patients from across the state and country, said McCrea.
BRAVE furthers the work of Froedtert & MCW's Neuroscience Institute, which was founded in 2022 to scientifically study and treat the entire nervous system as well as its functions and disorders. The institute provides a solid foundation for Avalon and the new BRAVE program to continue efforts surrounding TBI research and treatment, and it's only part of the reason MCW was selected to house the program, as Dr. Jim Kelly pointed out. He's the executive director of the Marcus Institute for Brain Health in Denver.
"You have a trauma center (at Froedtert Hospital) that is a top-tier location here in the state and relied upon more broadly than the state of Wisconsin, you have a connection to a VA hospital with collaborations that are pretty unique where you have individuals running services who are chairs of departments at MCW. You look around the country and try to find places that could put all that together. ... This is unique," said Kelly.