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Landmark gift makes CU Anschutz a national leader in veterans health care

Author Chris Casey | Publish Date May 16, 2017

Thanks to a gift of $38 million from The Marcus Foundation, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus will soon become a national model for the diagnosis and care of veterans who have suffered from traumatic brain injuries and related psychological health conditions.

The Marcus Institute for Brain Health (MIBH) opens this summer in the CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. The one-of-a-kind institute will be the cornerstone of a planned national network devoted to innovative and intensive treatment of military veterans who served our nation and now suffer the invisible wounds of war.

The MIBH was announced Friday by CU Anschutz leaders and Bernard Marcus, whose Atlanta-based philanthropic organization has steadfastly supported the health and well-being of military veterans. The luncheon celebration drew more than 100 attendees, including leaders from CU Anschutz’s hospital partners as well as CU President Bruce Benson, CU First Lady Marcy Benson and U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman.

‘Ideal place’ for innovative institute

Bernard Marcus and CU President Bruce Benson

Bernard Marcus, retired co-founder of The Home Depot and founder of The Marcus Foundation, with CU President Bruce Benson.

CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman said the campus is “the ideal place” to establish an institute that promises to transform health care for military veterans. CU Anschutz, once home to the Fitzsimons Army Medical Center, has a long history of serving veterans in addition to providing world-class mental health and wellness care. “We have leading-edge research and innovative programs that literally surround the institute’s efforts,” he said. “The campus is driven by a vision of delivering the best care and pioneering new approaches to treatments that get patients and families back to their lives.”

MIBH Executive Director James P. Kelly, MD, a neurologist and pioneer of customized diagnostic and treatment plans for veterans, led the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for seven years. The MIBH is designed after NICoE, which has successfully treated more than 1,300 active-duty servicemen and women suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and psychological health conditions. “Dr. Kelly came to us with that vision,” Elliman said, “and without him we would not be standing here today.”

Dr. Kelly stepped to the podium and, after acknowledging Chancellor Elliman and CU School of Medicine Dean John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, for their leadership, gave an emotional thanks to his wife of 30 years for her unwavering support throughout his career.

Dr. James Kelly of the Marcus Institute for Brain Health

Dr. James P. Kelly, executive director of the Marcus Institute for Brain Health

“The Marcus Institute for Brain Health is uniquely designed to address combined neurological and psychological conditions by targeting underlying causes,” Dr. Kelly said. “Where better to create such a place than the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center on an academic medical campus with a proud tradition of caring for military service members and their families?”

Immersive care

Retired Navy SEAL Lt. Cmdr. Pete Scobell

Retired Navy SEAL Lt. Cmdr. Pete Scobell

The MIBH will immerse veterans in treatment by a team of professionals in one place, rather than having them travel from clinic to clinic, Dr. Kelly said. The institute will optimize the functions of conventional medical diagnostic treatment while integrating alternative approaches such as mindfulness training, physical therapy and massage, acupuncture, yoga, and canine and equine therapy.

Care will be customized to each patient’s needs. “The Marcus Institute for Brain Health will share its lessons learned with systems across the country in real time. … What’s happening in Colorado will reverberate beyond our state’s borders to every corner of this nation,” Dr. Kelly said. “The need for such a program is huge.”

Nearly 400,000 U.S. servicemen and women have been diagnosed with TBI since 9/11 and as many as 600,000 suffered related psychological health conditions, he said.

‘I know I’m not alone’

One of these patients, retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Spencer Milo, has been named director of veteran programs at the MIBH. “As a military veteran who sustained injuries in Afghanistan, I am a huge advocate for the Marcus Institute for Brain Health,” Milo said. “Treatment like the traumatic brain injury therapies now being offered here saved my life, and I know I’m not alone.”

Plaque of Marcus Institute for Brain Health at CU Anschutz

CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman points to a replica of the permanent Marcus Institute for Brain Health plaque as Dr. James P. Kelly, MIBH executive director, and Bernard Marcus, philanthropist and retired co-founder of The Home Depot, look on.


Retired Navy SEAL Lt. Cmdr. Pete Scobell explained how he was the second SEAL to go to NICoE for treatment of TBI and related psychological conditions. He recalled sitting in a room with a dozen physicians representing “all specialties. They were out to solve the problem, not just treat the symptoms,” he said. “I know this can change lives – it’s unique.”

Cohen Veterans Network partnership

In addition to the announcement of the $38 million gift to create the Marcus Institute for Brain Health, the CU Anschutz Medical Campus announced it will work with the Cohen Veterans Network.

The network, in a partnership totaling $9.8 million, will work with CU Anschutz to build a mental health clinic to serve veteran and military families in greater Denver with free, or low-cost, personalized care and integrated case management support.

Founded by hedge fund manager and Connecticut philanthropist Steven A. Cohen, the Cohen Veterans Network is creating 25 Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics throughout the U.S. over a five-year period. Clients, veterans and family members will be treated by high-quality, culturally competent, network-trained clinicians, and will receive referrals to additional services at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus and in metro Denver.

Another distinctive aspect of the MIBH will be its service to military veterans regardless of their discharge status or ability to pay.

“It’s incumbent upon all of us across the nation to help those who have suffered as a result of their military service,” Dr. Kelly said, noting that the care at CU Anschutz will be further augmented by the soon-to-open Denver VA Hospital. Colorado will serve as a national model of seamless transitions of health care for veterans, he said. “It’s our intention that the Marcus Institute for Brain Health collaborate with academic and private-sector partners and the network of specialty centers – all working together to meet the needs of our veterans in multiple locations across the nation.”

Only the first step

Bernie Marcus, the retired co-founder of The Home Depot, said it’s an honor for his foundation to support veterans’ health because proper care for these selfless servicemen and women has been inadequate in the United States. He praised Dr. Kelly’s leadership of NICoE at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and said the center’s innovative vision will carry forward at MIBH.

“We’re starting here in Colorado with this medical campus,” Marcus said. “This building is only the first step of a major organization that’s going to be unaffiliated; we’ll join together and try to create the best of the best, and that’s what my foundation is all about.”

CU President Bruce Benson said the University of Colorado system has long been committed to serving those who have served our country. “Our campuses and communities are better places for the presence of veterans and military-connected students, families, faculty and staff,” he said. “These new initiatives further strengthen that commitment. We are deeply appreciative of this tremendous support and proud to be able to do our part.”

While The Marcus Foundation’s gift of $38 million is over five years for the MIBH, which will also serve civilian adults who have sustained mild to moderate TBI, the institute is set up for the long term, according to Chancellor Elliman. “Our commitment is to keep this institute going for as long as there is a need,” he said.