Public-Private Commitment to Our Veterans Mental Health: Cohen Veterans Care Summit Brings Forces Together to Find Solutions
Caring for veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) takes an enormous investment—of time, money, and resources—by academia, industry, government, the military, and the non-profit community.
On September 22nd and 23rd, 2016, approximately 200 of these leaders will gather at the first Cohen Veterans Care Summit to discuss the state of science and care delivery in PTSD and TBI and to map a path to a first generation of diagnostics, therapeutics, and cures.
The Summit is co-hosted by Cohen Veterans Bioscience (CVB) and Cohen Veterans Network (CVN). Dr. Magali Haas, CEO & President of Cohen Veterans Bioscience, and Dr. Anthony Hassan, CEO & President of Cohen Veterans Network, discuss why a conference such as this is much needed.
What are you most excited about for the 2016 Cohen Veterans Care Summit?
Dr. Haas: I don’t think I can choose just one thing! It’s going to be an unbelievable opportunity for leaders from academia, government agencies, foundations, and industry to meet and exchange ideas so that we can centralize efforts and information and bring PTSD and TBI to the forefront of treatment research—where it belongs.
Why is the Cohen Care Summit so valuable for advancing the field?
Dr. Haas: In order to advance the field, we need to get world-class experts who are working on different pieces of PTSD and TBI in the same room. And we need funders and policy-makers to see that PTSD and TBI diagnostics and therapies are attainable goals in the near-term. The Summit has the potential to accomplish both of these things. It will be very important to show the incredible progress that has already been made and talk about where we are headed.
What aspect of your work do you enjoy the most?
Dr. Haas: I enjoy making connections between people who might never have gotten together and inspiring them to collaborate in new ways to reach our common goals. PTSD and TBI are multifaceted disorders and so our approach to finding treatments has to be multifaceted. To explore every promising approach with the dedicated attention and focus it deserves, we need a lot of people to get on board with our programs. I like to create productive partnerships focused on tangible outcomes, which equates to real progress and win-win situations for patients and researchers alike.
Dr. Hassan: I love that I’m making a difference every day. I’m truly engaged in something that is transformational and that will have long lasting impact for many years to come.
Dr. Haas, how did you originally get involved with doing bioscience research for PTSD and TBI?
Dr. Haas: After 15 years in the pharmaceutical industry, I was inspired to accelerate the discovery of next-generation diagnostics, treatments, and cures for brain disorders. I founded Orion Bionetworks on that principle. Through that effort, I understood the need to forge public-private partnerships and the importance of a translational approach based on robustness and replicability to make progress.
I met with philanthropist Steven Cohen about one year ago and he shared his passion to make a difference in veterans’ mental health, particularly in PTSD and TBI. Having family who have served and a personal history of serious concussions myself, the potential to make an impact by joining forces became an imperative for me, so we re-focused Orion to become Cohen Veterans Bioscience.
What inspires you both to do the work you do?
Dr. Haas: Thinking about the millions of people affected by PTSD and TBI and knowing that they need help NOW. There are currently no definitive diagnostics, limited treatments, and no cures.
Dr. Hassan: This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, to meet a critical need for veterans and military families and help the very family that I served for 25 years as an Air Force mental health officer. A family that I call my own.
How do your two organizations collaborate?
Dr. Haas: I see great potential for these two organizations to complement, inform, and nurture each other. For example, it will be crucial for CVB to understand what concerns patients the most, what are the unmet needs, and what potentially works in the clinic. We also need to understand how to stratify patients so that we can interpret biomarker data and develop model systems. On the other hand, CVB can bring innovative science and validated treatments to CVN. We are quite similar in our approaches in that we both think about these issues methodically and carefully and demand standardization and quality.
Dr. Hassan: Cohen Veterans Bioscience research discoveries will be translated into practice within the Cohen Veterans Network. Our partnership is ideal for bringing bench science to the clinics to better serve veterans without the bureaucracy that often impedes the application of research in the field.
What sets Cohen Veterans Bioscience apart from other similar organizations?
Dr. Haas: There really is no similar organization for PTSD and TBI. We are honored to assume this responsibility, especially since the need for it is so great. We have certainly taken a lot of inspiration and learned a lot from organizations that do fantastic work in other therapeutic areas.
Describe Cohen Veterans Network.
Dr. Hassan: Cohen Veterans Network is a client-centered network of clinics, which provides high-quality, integrated and accessible mental health care. CVN’s mission is to fill a critical gap in care by improving mental health outcomes for veterans of the Armed Forces and their families.
What sets Cohen Veterans Network apart from other organizations that provide mental health care for veterans?
Dr. Hassan: We reduce all barriers to care while at the same time ensuring high-quality culturally competent care. Our setting is comprised of veterans and family members in one holistic unit. It is a place that understands its clients and makes them feel welcome; a source that you can trust.
What has Cohen Veterans Network been able to do as a private foundation that wouldn’t be possible if it did not have a guaranteed source of funding?
Dr. Hassan: With Steven Cohen’s generous gift, we’re able to be nimble and innovative while advancing the field beyond clinical care, through research, education and training, and anti-stigma media campaigns. We’re fortunate to be able to bring the best talent to the table.
What do you see for the Cohen Veterans Network in the future?
Dr. Hassan: I see a growing private network of clinics that is trusted and respected by the veterans’ community, that, not only provides high-quality care, but is shaping how mental health care delivery looks in the future.