Byrd Steers $7 Million to WVU Health Programs
MS Center, Simulation Training Funds in Budget

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A multiple sclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases center in Morgantown, and medical simulation training centers at three West Virginia University campuses, including Martinsburg and Charleston, will be created thanks to more than $7 million in funding that U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., added to legislation recently.

"West Virginia University’s medical programs are playing a leading role in advancing research, training, and service efforts," Byrd said. "We must find ways to bring doctors and nurses closer to their patients, and WVU is helping to lead the way."

In federal funding legislation cleared by the Senate Appropriations Committee and soon headed to the full Senate, Byrd added more than $4 million for the development of a Multiple Sclerosis and Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Center at WVU in Morgantown. The facility would be the first comprehensive center in West Virginia to treat patients with MS and to assist patients’ families in dealing with the illness.

"This center will help those individuals with MS to handle their illness more effectively and to improve the quality of their lives," Byrd said. "For people living with MS, the road to wellness is not just a journey of medicines and tests. Rather, it is a road that includes treatment, changes in one’s life that promote good physical and mental health, and the support of friends and family. The doctors and nurses at this center will help to map that road for MS patients in West Virginia and the surrounding states."

“Once again, Senator Byrd is taking action to help WVU fill a serious gap in the state’s health care infrastructure,” said  Fred Butcher, Ph.D., WVU’s vice president for health sciences. “Patients with multiple sclerosis and other debilitating neurological diseases require specialized care from a wide range of experts. This funding will allow us to gather all these experts under one roof so that the patient and the family can spend more time concentrating on their health, and less on arranging appointments and traveling.”

The center will also provide a crucial link between WVU’s advanced research programs in neurodegenerative diseases and the care that is provided to patients.

In the same legislation, Byrd added nearly $3.2 million to develop and equip medical simulation research and training centers. The centers will be established at WVU’s Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center campuses in Morgantown, Charleston and Martinsburg.

"These high-tech tools will help to train the next generation of doctors and nurses in a variety of complex medical scenarios. By providing advanced training, we can take great strides in improving the quality of medical care that West Virginians receive," Byrd explained.

Medical simulators are sophisticated mannequins, linked to a computer system, which can mimic dozens of medical conditions. Students must perform the correct procedures and administer proper doses of mock medications or the simulator will “die.”

In addition to serving more than 1,500 health professions students at the three campuses, the simulation centers will be valuable to hundreds of EMTs and other first responders who must regularly train to assist patients in heart failure, shock and other life-threatening situations.

The training allows students to safely develop the skills they will need when encountering a situation that requires quick and correct decision-making.

“Simulators allow us to train and assess students in a controlled, safe environment,” said Mitch Jacques, M.D., dean of WVU’s Eastern Division in Martinsburg. “They can experience emergency scenarios that they might not otherwise encounter during training, and be ready to put those skills into practice when they are out in the field. This will allow us to give medical training in Martinsburg that’s at the forefront of all the medical schools in the country.”

Byrd added the funds to the Fiscal 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved that bill by a vote of 26-3.

- WVU -

For more information:
Amy Johns, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087
bc: 06-29-07

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