NMCSD Taking the Lead on Mind Body Medicine and Hosting the first Military and Veteran Resiliency Medicine Summit

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Editor’s Note:  On February 25-26, Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) will be hosting the first Military and Veteran Resiliency Medicine Summit as a way to equip healthcare providers with the cutting edge in self-care resiliency tools by highlighting the latest research, best practices throughout the DoD/VA and hands-on workshops to introduce various self-care skills such as mindfulness meditation and yoga to the attendees.  The conference includes internationally renowned speakers such as Dr. Herbert Benson from Harvard University and the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine (BHI) and Dr. Deepak Chopra from the Chopra Foundation as well as top leaders and researchers from the DoD and VA.

This is an exciting moment for all of Navy medicine toward more robust integration of resiliency self-care into our healthcare model.   Many innovative leaders, through their blood and sweat, have started promising programs in this area at Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) and on operational platforms.  Sadly, these promising efforts inevitably fade away shortly after the innovative leader moves on to a new assignment.  This summit is the first step in reversing this paradigm and sustaining these efforts as an integral component of the care that we provide.

The inspiration for this conference came from our experiences developing the Mind Body Medicine (MBM) program at Naval Medical Center San Diego.   MBM’s mission is to create an efficient system to integrate evidence-supported, self-care resiliency skills into the military healthcare system in a way that is replicable throughout Navy medicine.  The foundation for MBM comes from the four decades of research which have demonstrated that a regular meditative practice results in improved emotional and cognitive regulation of stress, improved focus and attention, improved compassion for others, improved cardiovascular regulation and improved immune function.  Resiliency self-care has particular promise in the military given the limited mental health support resources in austere, deployed settings. The effort involves three main efforts: a web portal, a multimodal course for participants and an internal mechanism to train new MBM facilitators.

MBM maintains a web portal (http://tiny.cc/mindbodymedicine) to provide access to guided-meditation recordings to download or stream and helpful videos to assist participants in beginning and sustaining a meditative practice.

In collaboration with BHI from Massachusetts General Hospital, MBM has developed its own multimodal seven week course to teach and reinforce resiliency-building skills such as regular meditation, recuperative sleep, cognitive restructuring and social connection development with the goal of creating and sustaining these habits in the participants.  An internally developed course manual and CD of guided audio meditations were produced at NMCSD and are provided to help the participants in developing these skills.

Finally, MBM provides an organic capacity to train new MBM course facilitators to disseminate the concepts throughout the San Diego region and beyond.  Since 2014, we have trained 228 people to include health care providers from three Navy MTFs, the VA, fleet medical staff, Air Force social workers and Marine Corps medical and operational leaders.  This training has led to the creation of numerous MBM programs throughout NMCSD, a concussion care program at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, resiliency training at March Air Reserve Base, integration into the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Battalion and recent deployment of the hospital ship USNS Mercy.

From the very beginning, we made sure to include a robust program evaluation piece to quantitatively measure the value and effectiveness of the effort.  The data from this program evaluation have demonstrated that MBM participants greatly value the experience, have internalized the material, created new healthy habits and made significant improvements in their functioning and quality of life.

In December 2015, MBM was awarded the Military Health System Trailblazer Award.  This award recognizes those who have shown a commitment to innovation and have led the implementation of a novel initiative that improves health and readiness using limited resources. Resiliency self-care is now ready to move from trailblazing innovation to an expected element of the care that we provide our beneficiaries.

Although the Military and Veteran Resiliency Summit seats are sold out, the conference will be available as a webinar through DCS as well.  For more information on the event and a link to the webinar, go to http://tiny.cc/resiliencysummit.