Leadership

Thomas J. DeGraba, M.D.

Acting Director

Thomas J. DeGraba, M.D., became the acting director of Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC)  in July 2017. At DVBIC, he is responsible for establishing and nurturing a culture of health care innovation and rapid translation of key medical advances into integrated best practices in support of warrior care. DVBIC is the manager of the Defense Department’s traumatic brain injury pathway of care and the center of excellence for traumatic brain injury.

Before joining DVBIC, DeGraba was chief innovations officer at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE), Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland. He is a nationally recognized clinical neuroscience subject matter expert in traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health conditions, and has worked as a leader in the field of neurology, with a focus in brain injury and stroke, for over 25 years. As the founding deputy director of NICoE, he co-authored the concept of operations and led the team that developed and operationalized the patient centered interdisciplinary, holistic, intensive outpatient program  in 2010.

As chief innovations officer, DeGraba led research efforts focused on identifying novel diagnostic biomarkers to measure the effects of treatment in TBI and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including genomic expression, cerebral and peripheral autonomic tone, and electrophysiological brain wave patterns as measured by magnetoencephalography. His research program has also shown that an intensive outpatient program, including integrative medicine, results in significant improvement in recovery and long term durability of service members suffering from combat related TBI and psychological health conditions.

Prior to working at NICoE, DeGraba served as associate professor of neurology at the Uniformed Services University and the head of the Clinical Stroke Program at the National Naval Medical Center. In this capacity he directed the Stroke Program of the Comprehensive Neuroscience Program and coordinated clinical research teams from the Department of Defense , National Institutes of Health (NIH), and private academic medical centers. He also served as senior staff fellow and head of the Clinical Stroke Research Unit in the Stroke Branch at NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). During his time at NINDS, DeGraba established the first Intramural Clinical Stroke Program, directing research in the mechanisms of cerebrovascular disease related to immune-genetic susceptibility.

DeGraba served as a neurological consultant to the Office of the Attending Physician at the U.S. Capitol and the White House Medical Unit for more than ten years. His cerebrovascular laboratory provided transcranial Doppler to the brain injury team caring for the severe head injured service members returning from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has also served as a subject matter expert on the working group that updated the DoD/VA Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Concussion/Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, and serves on the steering committees for the Federal Interagency TBI Research national database and NINDS TBI Common Data Elements Working Group.

DeGraba earned his bachelor's degree, Summa Cum Laude in biochemistry, from the Catholic University of America and hismedical degree from Georgetown University. He completed his medical internship at the Washington Hospital Center, neurology residency at Georgetown University Hospital, and a post-doctoral fellowship in cerebrovascular disease at the University of Texas Medical Center in Houston, where he also served as assistant professor and chief of service at the Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital of the University of Texas-Houston Medical School.

Katherine M. Helmick, M.S., CRNP, ANP-BC, CNRN

Deputy Director

Ms. Katherine Helmick is the deputy director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC). She brings considerable clinical, educational and research experience in the field of neuroscience to include more than 100 regional, national and international presentations and more than 15 peer-reviewed publications.

Helmick has served in a variety of leadership, advisory and operational roles, including deputy director for the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury; deputy director for the Clinical and Educational Affairs Office for DVBIC; manager of the Office of Clinical Standards at DVBIC; neurological surgery nurse practitioner at Hodes Neurosurgery in Louisville, Kentucky; nurse practitioner/clinical care coordinator at the University of Louisville Hospital; and clinical research coordinator in the Division of Neurosurgery at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals.

Helmick holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in family and child development from Virginia Tech University.

She has earned the following certifications: Adult Nurse Practitioner (ANP) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center and Neuroscience Registered Nurse (CNRN) through the American Board of Neuroscience Nursing.