"Proud to serve our nation's heroes." That is what the electronic sign in front of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center near the Emory campus frequently reads, and no one believes that more than the Emory medical faculty who comprise virtually all the medical staff at the center. In addition to providing state-of-the-art clinical care for the veterans seen there, Emory has made the Atlanta facility one of the nation's top 10 VA centers in research dollars received. That's good for the hospital, bringing in both medical expertise and financial support, but it is especially good for veterans of past and present conflicts. One of 158 VAMCs in the country, the Atlanta facility has 173 hospital beds and 100 nursing home beds.
    The VA Medical Center is well known for its work in prostheses for veterans who have lost hands or limbs. Now the VA is working with the Emory Eye Center on an expanded clinical trial to see if implantation of a retina microchip can improve functional vision or at least slow progressive vision loss in people with retinitis pigmentosa (RP). People with this hereditary disease usually develop night blindness in childhood. As young adults, their peripheral vision begins to narrow, progressing over many years to tunnel vision and finally blindness. The retina microchip is designed to stimulate retinal cells damaged by RP and possibly other retinal conditions, producing visual signals similar to those produced by the retina's photoreceptor layer. Early studies showed a modest effect in animals and proved the chips safe in human patients. It's too soon to know how well the implant will work in the patients in the more advanced trial now under way, but it's only one of many joint efforts intended to help veterans and other patients get the advanced medical care they deserve, now and in the future.  
  Almost one in five Iraq veterans is estimated to be at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs believes that the lifetime prevalence among Vietnam war veterans is even higher. Although the memories behind PTSD will never go away, Emory researchers have developed a new treatment combining virtual reality therapy with a drug that binds to the neurotransmitter receptors in the part of the brain with mechanisms governing the fear response. Rodent studies at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center found that the combination therapy had a positive effect on the extinction of fear, and the first human trial of the therapy was highly effective against fear of heights. Now psychologist Barbara Rothbaum, director of Emory's Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program, and Emory psychiatrist and Yerkes researcher Kerry Ressler, are leading a new clinical study based at the Atlanta VAMC, which uses a Virtual Iraq module. The study is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.  

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