State’s first comprehensive care, one-stop center for spinal cord injury patients opens

David Dunlap, CEO and President, Roper St. Francis Healthcare welcomes guests to the new Center for Spinal Cord Injury.

Roper Rehabilitation Hospital, MUSC Health, Carolinas Rehabilitation and the Spinal Cord Injury Research Fund (SCIRF) have developed a new, collaborative program that will improve patient care for hundreds of people in our area living with spinal cord injury. 

The Center for Spinal Cord Injury (CSCI) officially opened in the 6th floor rehabilitation gym at Roper Hospital, where physicians, hospital administrators and local officials were among those who gathered to learn about the new treatment center.  The CSCI will offer specialized services unique to spinal cord injury patients in one location and during a single appointment. It is the first medical program of its kind inSouth Carolina.

“This new Center and our successful collaboration represent an important step forward in the treatment for spinal cord injury patients,” said David L. Dunlap, Roper St. Francis Healthcare President and CEO.  “This innovative clinic not only fills a void for hundreds of patients in the region, but also demonstrates the value of what our medical community can achieve by working together for our patients.”

"Patients with spinal cord injuries often have a range of healthcare needs that are difficult for any single healthcare system to meet. By combining the resources of the partners, we are able to better serve the needs of these patients,” said Medical University of South Carolina President Raymond Greenberg, MD, PhD.  “Not only will we reduce costs by avoiding unnecessary duplication of effort, we will improve the quality of care provided.  This is a win for the community, a win for the health systems, and most importantly, a win for the patients.  We expect this collaboration to set a precedent for how we can work together in other areas as well."

The tri-county area averages 43 new spiral cord injury cases per year with approximately 1,000 people in the area living with spinal cord injury, according to Nancey Tsai, MD, a board certified physiatrist and medical director for CSCI.  “Too often, when a person with spinal cord injury needs medical care, they find themselves in a system that’s difficult to navigate because not all healthcare providers have access to specialized equipment and training to treat the unique needs of this population,” said Dr. Tsai.

Charles T. Cole, Jr., a retired bank executive and active member in the Charleston community, has seen firsthand the importance of offering spinal cord injury patients a central place to receive care.

Cole, who was left with a devastating spinal cord injury following a fall in 2008, felt fortunate to have received treatment from both Roper St. Francis and MUSC and wanted others to have the same opportunity.  He and his wife, Joanne, worked with the hospitals and SCIRF to successfully initiate efforts to establish the Center for Spinal Cord Injury.

“Sitting in a wheelchair, immobilized, I had a lot of time to think, a lot of time to reflect on how I could turn this injury into something that would help others who have similar conditions,” Cole said.  “This Center represents a dream and a vision that these three hospital communities can collaborate for the common good of spinal cord injury patients.”

“It is essential to have high quality clinical services in the Lowcountry where they are readily accessible to those with spinal cord injury,” said James S. Krause, PhD, Associate Dean for Research at MUSC’sCollegeofHealth Professionsand Scientific Director for SCIRF.  “Having outstanding services and follow-up care is essential to health and well-being after a spinal cord injury. This grand opening is the culmination of years of planning and it is truly a time for celebration.”

Dr. Krause also expressed gratitude to Representative Harry B. “Chip” Limehouse, III, who Krause said had been instrumental to the success of the South Carolina Spinal Cord Injury Fund and who has helped to make the Clinic’s grand opening possible.

The Center for Spinal Cord Injury comprises a team of medical specialists from Roper Rehab and MUSC Health, including neurology, pain management, pulmonology, urology, endocrinology, gynecology and gastroenterology. Other team members include certified rehabilitation nurses, a wound care nurse, certified wheelchair and orthotics specialists, a pharmacist, registered dietician and board certified spinal cord injury physiatrists.  Physician and nursing assessments, lab work, physical and occupational therapy evaluation and case management are among services will be offered. 

Carolinas Rehabilitation, one of the busiest medical centers in the U.S., served as a model in shaping the Center for Spinal Cord Injury.  One of the board certified physiatrists will travel regularly to Charleston to lend expertise consultation. 

Initially, the CSCI will be open on the third Friday of each month and will treat 10 patients on a single day, with most patients requiring four or more hours of screening, instruction and treatment.  Additional clinic days and/or times will be added as the new Center grows.

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