Northern California, Oregon and Washington state
Odette Harris, M.D., MPH
DVBIC Site Director
Dr. Odette Harris is the DVBIC site director and principal investigator at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System where she is also the associate chief of staff of rehabilitation. Harris also serves as the director of Brain Injury at Stanford University Medical Center and associate professor of neurosurgery in the Department of Neurosurgery at Stanford University. Previously, Harris was an assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Emory University, and chief of Neurosurgery Service at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.
Harris completed her undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College where she graduated with numerous awards in 1991. She received her medical degree from Stanford University School of Medicine in 1996 and a Masters of Public Health from University of California, Berkeley. In 2003, she completed her residency in neurosurgery at Stanford. Harris has been the recipient of several academic awards during her education, including the 2003 recipient of the Van Wagenen Fellowship Award from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. Under the auspices of the fellowship, she conducted associated research at University Hospital of the West Indies, where she served as a visiting consultant in neurosurgery.
Harris is a member of several professional organizations including the American Association of Neurosurgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. She has received many professional awards and honors. Harris has also authored numerous peer-reviewed publications and books.
The VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) was established as a DVBIC site in 1992. VAPAHCS began operations in 1924 and has grown into the sixth largest Veterans Health Administration in the state of California; the research program is the third largest in the VA with $55 million in funding
VAPAHCS is one of five Level 1 VA Polytrauma Centers in the country and has established a state-of-the-art treatment and rehabilitation center. The Polytrauma System of Care (PSC) consists of three inpatient facilities at Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Livermore, plus six outpatient clinics in San Jose, Capitola, Monterey, Stockton, Modesto and Sonora. The scope of service includes comprehensive interdisciplinary inpatient evaluations, acute comprehensive interdisciplinary inpatient rehabilitation, emerging consciousness, assistive technology, transitional community reentry, reevaluations, ongoing case management and follow-up, outpatient therapy services, and consultation. Military liaisons located within VAPAHCS are an important resource for active duty families and VA staff. They coordinate care and service benefits for service members and their families. They also work to resolve administrative issues involving travel for family members, lodging, reimbursement and pay issues, and transportation or shipment of household or personal goods.
The PSC including inpatient, transitional and outpatient services provides comprehensive, high-quality, individually tailored rehabilitation planning and interdisciplinary care to patients. The center also coordinates the transfer and provision of health care for patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other serious injuries within the VA system and between the VA and Defense Department. Further, VAPAHCS is home to the Spinal Cord Injury Center, Western Blind Rehabilitation Center, National Center for PTSD, and the War Related Injury and Illness Study Center. VAPAHCS is building a new rehabilitation center for its Polytrauma services, including DVBIC. Set to open in 2016, it will be the U.S. government’s largest rehabilitation center.
As partners, the DVBIC Palo Alto team works collaboratively with colleagues in the multidisciplinary PSC, emphasizing clinical care coordination, comprehensive education and outreach — including special attention to families’ needs — and clinical research on diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation for veterans and service members who have sustained a TBI. DVBIC staff doesn’t provide clinical care.
Education, Training and Outreach
Education services are provided throughout Northern California, Oregon and Washington. The education mission at DVBIC Palo Alto is to provide a comprehensive program of education and training on awareness, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of TBI to health care providers, veterans, service members, families and civilian communities. The Regional Education Coordinator is available to collaborate on a variety of educational initiatives, workshops and exhibits to promote TBI educational awareness in the VA, DoD and community.
To address caregiver needs, DVBIC Palo Alto in collaboration with the PSC and the Family Caregiver Program has hosted several TBI Family and Professional Caregiver workshops. The site has also hosted a series of workshops on “Strategies for Success” in partnership with the War Related injury and Illness Study Center and VAPAHCS. The goal has been to educate faculty, counselors and other staff working within the college and academic systems to better serve student veterans who have sustained a TBI.
A new area of focus is aimed at providing education to those serving justice involved veterans. Some veterans are at risk for justice system involvement due to untreated or unmanaged symptoms of TBI and other co-occurring conditions. These individuals may be incorrectly identified as intoxicated, acutely dangerous, or defiant. Early recognition and appropriate intervention can decrease problems and prevent counterproductive outcomes such as homelessness or incarceration. This effort also supports the VHA Homeless, Mental Health, and Access National Strategic Initiatives.
DVBIC Palo Alto’s clinical investigative research program works in tandem with VAPAHCS and Stanford University at the local and long-term level to address TBI. The ongoing multi-site Prospective Clinical Tracking (CTF) study and Long Term Outcome study uses the vibrant academic community for database development, research projects and education. DVBIC Palo Alto’s local projects also include a study directed towards telephonic testing and women veterans. Recent research efforts include improving diagnostic and treatment strategies for veterans with mild and moderate TBI, leveraging on advanced neuroimaging, therapeutic methods and assistive techniques. An additional focus is devising various methods to better the lives of the aging veteran who has suffered from brain injury.
DVBIC Palo Alto and the PSC host the annual TBI Research Forum every March to increase awareness of recent innovations in TBI research during Brain Injury Awareness Month. The forum provides networking and scientific exchange opportunities to clinical, academic and community stakeholders working in TBI research. Invited speakers present on a current subject followed by a panel discussion. Researchers from VA departments in the region, as well as nearby academic and community hospitals present their posters following the theme: Prevention, Diagnostics, Treatment and Outcomes. Please visit TBI Research Forum for further information.