The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), recently awarded the prestigious Samuel J. Heyman Science and Environment Medal to William A. Bauman, MD, and Ann M. Spungen, PhD, director and associate director at the VA’s Rehabilitation Research and Development National Center of Excellence for the Medical Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury in the Bronx, NY.
The Science and Environment Medal–also known as the “Sammies”–is awarded to federal employees who have made a significant contribution to the nation.
The pair of VA researchers, who have been working together for a quarter of a century, were recognized in a ceremony in the Andrew Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC. VA Secretary Robert McDonald presented Bauman and Spungen their awards.
As part of their collaboration, Bauman and Spungen have made great progress in understanding the effects of spinal cord injury on the body.
According to VA, their work led to the conclusion that persons with spinal cord injury are at a markedly increased risk for heart disease. They were also the first to describe, and then treat, an asthma-like lung condition common in those with higher levels of paralysis. They have developed approaches to make it easier for paralyzed patients to undergo successful colonoscopies. With other researchers in their unit, Bauman and Spungen formulated novel drug combinations to raise low blood pressure, and they have overseen the development of treatments to reduce bone loss shortly after spinal cord injury. Their work has advanced our understanding and treatment of chronic, non-healing pressure ulcers. Researchers under their direction also are making strides toward improving understanding of body temperature regulation and the effect of swings in body temperature on one’s ability to think.
About the Bronx VA
In 1970, James J. Peters, a Life magazine correspondent and United Spinal Association’s past executive director, exposed the deplorable conditions facing paralyzed Vietnam veterans at the old Bronx VA Hospital. The article receives national attention and causes public outrage leading the VA to establish a national spinal cord injury service office in Washington, DC to address the needs of paralyzed veterans. Within ten years, the hospital is replaced by a new, improved hospital. In 2005, the Bronx, NY VA hospital is formally re-named the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center to honor the lifelong dedication to the health and welfare of spinal cord injured veterans of our late Executive Director Jim Peters.