After discussing the duplication of programs on college campuses across Montana, the state Board of Regents on Friday gave the University of Montana the go-ahead to establish a Neural Injury Center.
UM President Royce Engstrom, joined by professors Reed Humphrey and Richard Bridges, briefed regents on the center’s goals to alleviate any fears the program would duplicate efforts taking place at Montana State University.
“The concept of the NIC was to take the services we currently have and leverage the pockets of expertise we have across campus,” said Humphrey, chair of the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences. “I’d like to think that while the center is located at UM, it’s still a Montana University System program. Through our collaboration, it will lead to better practices on all campuses.”
As billed to regents, the NIC would reach across disciplines to pool the university’s expertise and serve students suffering from brain, spinal cord and other neural injuries. It also would serve as an extension to the school’s Brain Initiative.
Early visions for the center look to help students, particularly military veterans, overcome their neural injuries and matriculate through college. The center would also boost professional training to improve treatment of the injuries and their intervening therapies.
Bridges, a regents professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, said that Montana ranks second per capita in the nation in deaths resulting from traumatic brain injury.
He estimated that as many as 50,000 people in the state suffer TBI, and 25,000 require daily care as a result.
“To really approach this problem, you need a large critical mass of scientists,” Bridges said. “At the grassroots level, there’s more collaboration than even the university presidents would appreciate is going on.”
Clayton Christian, commissioner of higher education, said the numbers demonstrate the program’s relevance and need.
While MSU is working on its own brain research, he said, collaboration between the two flagship universities will serve as a benefit, not a detractor, and others agreed.
“All of our campuses vet new programs to look for duplicative efforts,” said Robert Mokwa, an associate professor of civil engineering at MSU. “This is a good example where there’s not necessarily duplication, but opportunities for collaboration.”
MSU President Waded Cruzado agreed, saying the efforts at UM would not duplicate or compete with those in Bozeman.
“It’s a way for our scientists to collaborate,” she said.