The Department of Defense last week announced the establishment of the world’s first brain tissue repository on the Walter Reed Campus to help researchers better understand traumatic brain injury (TBI).
TBI is common among veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which led to the opening of The Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine Brain Tissue Repository for Traumatic Brain Injury at the Uniformed Services University on the campus.
Doctors hope by studying brain tissue with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disorder that disrupts basic human functions, they’ll be able to better address the problem in future patients.
Researchers will look at what blast exposure does to brain tissue and try to figure out if different forms of brain injury common in military veterans lead to the disorder.
Service members exposed to blasts “are coming home with troubling, persistent problems and we don’t know the nature of this, whether it’s related to psychiatric responses from engagement in warfare or related to actual damage to the brain, as seen in football players,” said Dr. Daniel Perl, neuropathologist and director of the repository.
In January, doctors at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda determined former NFL linebacker Junior Seau had chronic traumatic encephalopathy when he committed suicide in spring 2012. The Seau family donated his brain to NIH to be studied.
In September 2012, the NFL announced a $30 million contribution to NIH for the study of brain injury and concussion management and prevention.
The brain repository at the Uniformed Services University will be paid for through a multi-year grant from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.
“Our men and women in uniform and their families have sacrificed so much to keep our country safe. It is critical that we ensure our veterans receive proper care and treatment for injuries sustained in service to our country,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen said in a statement. “That is why I am pleased that the military has announced the establishment of the first brain tissue repository. This will complement the other outstanding work that is done at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, which we are proud to have in Maryland’s Eighth Congressional District. The repository will help researchers understand the underlying mechanisms of TBI, allowing us to learn even more about how we can treat these injuries and giving our military more information that it can use to work on preventing brain injury in the first place.”
Council To Take Up Zoning Rewrite This Week — A public hearing is set for Tuesday and the first Council Committee worksession is scheduled for Friday on the county’s zoning ordinance rewrite. The rewrite, as proposed by the Planning Board, would simplify and condense the zoning code. It would also continue the county’s push toward more urban development around transit centers. Critics say that development will come at the expense of established residential neighborhoods. [Washington Post]
Inside The ‘Superbug’ Outbreak At NIH — An antibiotic-resistant “superbug” that led to the death of six NIH patients in 2011 flummoxed doctors at one of the most advanced hospitals in the world. How they fought the outbreak and how overprescribing antibiotics could mean antibiotics that don’t work. [Washingtonian Magazine]
Residents, County Official Testify Against Proposed Shuttle Cuts — Residents and Montgomery County’s BRAC coordinator testified against the Maryland Transit Administration’s proposal to cut a number of ICC highway bus routes, including one that brings commuters from Howard County and Montgomery County to Bethesda’s Medical Center. County officials are wary of ongoing traffic problems on the notoriously clogged Rockville Pike. MTA says not enough people use the shuttle to warrant it. [The Gazette]
Tonight: County Presents Partial Designs For New White Flint Road Network — The Montgomery County Department of Transportation on Monday night will present its preliminary designs for the Western Workaround, a new street grid in the area vital to much of White Flint’s proposed development. The monthly meeting of the White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee (7 p.m., Shriver Aquatic Center at 5900 Executive Blvd.) will also include a sketch plan presentation from developers of a property on Marinelli Road. [Friends of White Flint]
Flickr photo by IamJomo
Montgomery County is nearing the completion of an expansive pond on the NIH campus that environmental planners say will treat stormwater from downtown Bethesda and NIH that might have otherwise ended up in a tributary of Rock Creek.
The county started construction on the $2.5 million, six-acre Stoney Creek Stormwater Management Pond and site in October 2010. Construction was scheduled to last two years.
The project, which includes a 1.3-acre pond, two underground trash collection chambers and landscaping near the intersection of Wisconsin and Woodmont Avenues, is approaching its final stages, according to county spokeswoman Esther Bowring.
Bowring said the county will complete all site grading and construction by early March, at which point planting will begin. There will be periodic follow-ups as required to get the new grasses, shrubs and trees off to a good start.
The county regarded the location of the pond as key for capturing runoff from 204 acres of the Bethesda Central Business District and NIH campus. The project will also include a subsurface aerator for enhancing water circulation and other measures for discouraging mosquitoes or other pests.
The site sits on the southern edge of NIH’s campus, directly behind the apartments on Battery Lane.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett will gather with his counterparts from Prince George’s and Howard Counties on Tuesday to urge Congress to find a way to avoid the sequester, which they worry will have a damaging effect on a local economy dependent on federal funds, employees and contractors.
This, as Maryland Democrats on Capitol Hill make a push for some action on avoiding the across-the-board federal cuts that would kick in on March 1.
Yesterday, Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) convened a hearing of her Senate Appropriations Committee to hear testimony from federal agencies on the effects of sequestration. Many, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, issued impact statements that detailed severe cuts that would come to their agencies. Sebelius wrote about cuts to the National Institutes of Health, headquartered in Bethesda:
Cuts to the National Institutes ofHealth (NIH) due to sequestration would delay progress on the prevention of debilitating chronic conditions that are also costly to society and on the development of more effective treatments for common and rare diseases affecting millions of Americans. In general, NIH grant funding within states, including Maryland, will likely be reduced due to both reductions to existing grants and fewer new grants. We expect that some existing research projects could be difficult to pursue at reduced levels and some new research could be postponed as NIH would make hundreds fewer awards. Actual funding reductions will depend on the final mix ofprojects chosen to be supported by each Institute and Center within available resources. With each research award supporting up to seven research positions, several thousand research positions across the nation could be eliminated.
During her visit with the Montgomery County Council on Monday, Mikulski said she realizes the effect the sequester could have on the county.
“If the federal government catches a cold, Montgomery County could catch pneumonia,” she told MyMCMedia.
Montgomery is home to 17 federal agencies, 32,000 federal employees and many contracting firms that work with those agencies.
Also yesterday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) introduced a $120 billion deficit reduction plan that would avoid the sequester cuts. Van Hollen, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, has long argued for a plan that combines spending cuts and higher taxes. House Democrats say the plan he sponsored yesterday would save 750,000 jobs the Congressional Budget Office says would be lost of sequestration takes effect.
At a Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee meeting last month, an official from NIH said one direct effect of the budget cuts could be the closing of the campus’ Old Georgetown Road entrance near Greentree Road, at least in the mornings.
CORRECTION: The added right lane on northbound 355 after Cedar Lane will extend to a point just north of Locust Hill Road, not all the way to the Beltway junction.
Also a clarification: $40 million of the referenced $90 million in federal funding will go toward the pedestrian tunnel crossing at the South Drive intersection. The federal government is providing another approximately $28 million from a separate fund for the project, bringing the rough cost to $68 million. The approximate federal haul for the four intersection projects is $50 million, plus $9.4 million in earmarks from FY 2008-2010.
ORIGINAL POST: Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) says it takes between 10 and 15 minutes to drive from downtown Bethesda to the Beltway/I-270 junction during rush hour on northbound 355.
The 1.5-mile stretch has become one of the region’s most notorious chokeholds, with added traffic traveling to and from the now-merged Walter Reed National Military Medical Center using intersections that local transportation officials said were already failing.
With both Walter Reed and across-the-street neighbor NIH planning to add employees over the next two decades, the federal government has provided millions in funding to help the Maryland State Highway Administration and Montgomery County try to lighten the traffic load.
We took a trip up Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue starting at 4:30 p.m., on the early end of the after-work rush hour. Starting with the left turn onto Wisconsin Avenue from Woodmont Avenue on the edge of downtown Bethesda, it took ten minutes and four seconds to get to the ramp for I-270 north, a distance of 1.6 miles.
The video, with facts, figures and details of some of the intersection and improvement projects to come, is above. If you don’t feel like reliving that commute, all of the information in the video is supplied after the jump.
A resident at The Children’s Inn at NIH recently received an important gift thanks to charity One Sight and the Lenscrafters store in Montgomery Mall.
Winie, a 17-year-old NIH patient from the Dominican Republic living in the Inn’s Woodmont House, was suffering from vision problems as a result of her medication, a common problem among patients according to media relations manager Meredith Daly.
After getting a prescription from her doctor at NIH, Winie on Monday received a donated pair of glasses through the One Sight program. Lenscrafters upgraded her pair above the cost of the voucher, Daly said.
The donation is more important considering Winie plans to return to school in the Dominican Republic on Friday after seven months at the Inn. Winie arrived in Bethesda with her mom.
“It’s a huge gift to her,” Daly said. “For her to have been able to get this donation, it’s just something they couldn’t have done on their own.”
It was unclear what affect that might have outside the base walls, where parking capacity issues have sometimes meant base employees parking on the streets of surrounding neighborhoods.
Jeff Miller, transportation program manager for NSAB, said designs for the interim buildings (known as medical swing space) were not finalized. But he told people at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee that it appears the Navy will put a one-story, 10,000-square-foot building and two-story, 90,000-square-foot building on what is now the G Parking Lot on the north end of campus bordering the Stone Ridge School.
Miller said that would leave parking “constrained,” but that the buildings would be ready for teardown in 2018.
“There’s significant motivation to reclaim that parking lot,” said Bill Sadlon, a project manager for Naval Facilities Engineering Command.
The expansion of the campus to include the Walter Reed Army Medical Center is expected to increase the number of annual visitors to the base to 1 million, up from 500,000. NSAB plans a new 500-space underground garage to compliment the new medical facilities as part of its master plan.
On the other side of Rockville Pike, budget constraints may force NIH to shut down its entrance near Greentree Road in the morning, according to an NIH official at the meeting.
Until Congress takes action on the budget, the gate will remain open.
Flickr photo by AmyMarieMoore
The CEO of the Children’s Inn at NIH, a Bethesda billionaire with some major philanthropic deeds to his name and a former Army psychologist with one of the most successful wounded warrior programs going at Walter Reed were named “Washingtonians of the Year 2012” this month by Washingtonian Magazine.
As CEO, Kathy Russell has helped build the Children’s Inn, which provides permanent living situations for parents and families of sick children from around the country undergoing treatment at NIH.
Bethesda’s David Rubenstein, co-founder of the private equity firm The Carlyle Group, was honored for his “philanthropy that unites Washington.”
Rubenstein recently donated $2 million for a new organ in the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall and $1.5 million to the Library of Congress.
Ken Strafer, an Army vet who was injured in an IED blast in 2004, started Project Enduring Pride, which helps wounded veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center get off the base and provides other support activities.
Photo via Washingtonian Magazine
Phil Alperson said residents, employees and visitors in the area can expect delays and intermittent road closures from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. today.
Across Rockville Pike, NIH has advised its employees to enter and exit on the Old Georgetown Road side of campus “to help alleviate traffic backups” on Rockville Pike.
Base spokesman Joe Macri declined to elaborate on the anticipated delays, saying, “In the interest of force protection, we are unable to discuss specific security measures taken.”
President Barack Obama visited wounded troops on the base on Dec. 20, a pre-holiday closed-to-the-media session that didn’t cause any significant added traffic.
The Bethesda Community Store will be on the auction block on Tuesday, nearly 90 years since it opened at the corner of Old Georgetown Road and Greentree Road.
The property has been foreclosed upon and will be up for sale on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. The small cabin-like store, recognized as historic by the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission, has been selling goods since 1924 and is one of the few remaining commercial structures from the early 20th century in Bethesda.
It also includes a barbecue stand and patio. Store owner Arnie Fainman encountered resistance from the county and neighbors in 2001, when he tried to sell seafood at the store through a vendor who was forced to leave the NIH campus across the street because of Sept. 11 security restrictions.
Fainman won a court battle to to double the store’s space. The barbecue is a lunchtime favorite of workers at NIH and nearby Suburban Hospital.
Fainman said he couldn’t comment on the property’s sale because he is a tenant. The property is owned by Chevy Chase-based property management company the Jaffe Group. A representative did not respond to a request for comment.
“It’s out of my hands,” Fainman said.
Flickr photo by voteprime
County to Drop Dog Park Fee — Citing a decline in dog park use since instituting a $40 annual fee in 2010, Montgomery County Parks will do away with the fee and look for other ways to make up budget shortfalls. [The Gazette]
NIH Orchestra Performs For A Good Cause — The volunteer NIH Orchestra, which includes federal government workers, high school students and locals of all types, has donated almost $25,000 over years of benefit concerts. [Bethesda Patch]
Bethesda Green Happy Hour at Redwood — The environmental nonprofit will host a get-together on Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Redwood Restaurant and Bar (7121 Bethesda Lane). [Bethesda Green]
Flickr photo by crthomas888
The annual “Santa’s Escort Ride,” to benefit the Children’s Inn at NIH arrived in town around 3 p.m. today as MCPD motor officers escorted Mr. Claus into Woodmont Triangle to take pictures and chat in Veterans Park.
The Children’s Inn at NIH provides residences and services for sick kids undergoing treatment at NIH and their families, many who come from across the country to the Bethesda campus. The MCPD officers on the ride will give the kids gift bags and donations the department raised in a party later today at the Inn.
The ride began at the 5th District Germantown Station at 10 a.m. and hit the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, Gaithersburg’s Sheehy Ford and Vince and Dominics Pizzeria in Bethesda (10474 Auto Park Ave.) for the annual luncheon.
Police Chief Thomas Manger greeted the officers and Santa at Veterans Park. They’ll head to Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School before departing for NIH, where the party will start around 5:30 p.m.
The annual “Santa’s Escort Ride,” to benefit the Children’s Inn at NIH will go on all day next Wednesday, Dec. 12, when MCPD motor officers escort Santa from Germantown to NIH with gifts in tow.
The Children’s Inn at NIH provides residences and services for sick kids undergoing treatment at NIH and their families, many who come from across the country to the Bethesda campus. The MCPD officers on the ride will give the kids gift bags and donations the department raised in a party at the Inn.
The riders will begin at the 5th District Germantown Station at 10 a.m. and hit the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, Gaithersburg’s Sheehy Ford and stop at Vince and Dominics Pizzeria in Bethesda (10474 Auto Park Ave.) for a special luncheon.
The riders will then meet with Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce representatives and Police Chief Thomas Manger and depart for the Inn, where the party will start around 5:30 p.m.
Those interested in donating money to help police purchase gift cards for the event, should make clear they are donating to the “Santa Police Ride” when donating on the Children’s Inn website.
Photo via MCPD
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center yesterday, one year after dedicating the facility that absorbed the Walter Reed Army Hospital from its previous location in Silver Spring.
In a speech, Panetta thanked doctors and nurses for coming together to care for the many wounded veterans on campus, according to the Defense Department.
“I want to thank you for your leadership, because what you have here is a world-class center for healing, for compassion, and for empowerment,” Panetta said.
Nearly 4,000 employees have moved to the Naval Hospital Bethesda base after 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) mandated Walter Reed merge onto the Wisconsin Avenue campus. The original estimate was 2,500, a discrepancy nearby residents and some local officials say has contributed to a major traffic mess.
“When you move Walter Reed, you don’t necessarily get that corresponding benefit that you’d normally get if you’re bringing in 1,200 jobs from somewhere else, say from New Jersey,” County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said in an October interview. “That means those people are going to move, buy a house and now become new taxpayers. Walter Reed, because it was only a few miles away, you don’t get people moving from other places. You get the traffic, but you don’t get all the corresponding other things that come with that.”
Recent expansion plans on both the Walter Reed campus and at the neighboring National Institutes of Health have again put neighbors on notice. Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) estimates 270 additional workers on the Walter Reed campus. NIH’s master plan calls for as many as 3,000 more employees over 20 years.
That means the No. 1 and No. 2 largest employers in Montgomery County, which sit across six lanes of traffic coming and going from downtown Bethesda, will only grow.
To assuage local fears and to make crossing Wisconsin Avenue from the Medical Center Metro station easier for Walter Reed patients and workers, the state’s Congressional delegation this year dedicated a rare BRAC project outside the base walls.
Senators Barbara Mikulski (D) and Ben Cardin (D), as well as Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) touted federal funding for a Wisconsin Avenue Metro tunnel that would making crossing the street safer and ease traffic issues.
“We believe in the mission of these two agencies and we thank our local community for your patience during this difficult time,” Mikulski said at a September press event. “But at the end of the day, we’re gonna have more jobs, better healthcare, honor our promises to our veterans but also our promises to our country of the great innovation that goes on here.”
Flickr photo by Secretary of Defense
Imagination Stage Gets Federal Grant — The National Endowment for the Arts announced Imagination Stage (4908 Auburn Ave.) will receive a $30,000 grant for work on its show “Anime Momotaro,” the largest grand the children’s theater has ever received from the NEA.
Lingerie Shop For Lionsgate? — What appears to be a second rumored location for Chevy Chase lingerie shop Sylene is taking shape in some of the ground floor retail space at the Lionsgate building (7710 Woodmont Ave.). [Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row]
NIH Tardy on Water Bill — The NIH owes the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission $491,000 in overdue bills, a result of faulty processing, according to the federal agency. [The Gazette]
Flickr photo by crthomas888