SSC Announces Award for Doctor Who Solved Medical Mystery for Veterans

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The Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center announces today that Dr. Robert F. Miller is to receive the 2012 Deployment Health Science Excellence Award for his work identifying a rare life-threatening lung ailment associated with dust and smoke inhalation in post 9/11 Veterans, which but for Dr. Miller's efforts may have gone undetected. The Excellence Award will be presented at a special event on November 10 at the Ceremonial Gate of Arlington National Cemetery at 6pm.

The Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center announces today that its 2012 Award for Excellence in Post-Deployment Health Science will go to Dr. Robert F. Miller, a lung specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The Award will be presented on November 10 at a special event in our nation’s capital.

Dr. Miller is one of a group of lung specialists across the country dedicated to uncovering how airborne exposures in the Middle East theater may be causing chronic illnesses in post -9/11 Veterans. The story starts several years ago.

Service members returning from the Middle East theater were having trouble passing fitness tests at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. They passed normal lung function tests, yet were short of breath. In other contexts unexplained health problems such as these have been interpreted as psychological in origin when physical explanations have not been found. In this case, military physicians collaborated with Dr. Miller, who performed surgical lung biopsies, an unconventional but in this case revealing move.

The lung biopsies made it clear that physical causes were at the root of the Service member’s health problems. The procedure uncovered a rare condition called constrictive bronchiolitis, which is a narrowing of the tiniest and deepest lung airways. This debilitating disease, rarely if ever seen in young persons, has now been associated with dust and smoke inhalation in the Middle East theater. These exposures have been associated by health advocates with other post-deployment illnesses, including cancers, that have led to tragic early deaths.

“The Sergeant Sullivan Center honors those physicians, like Dr. Miller, who look for physical causes for physical health problems, even when the search is difficult,” said Peter Sullivan, a Founding Board Member of the Center. “Our own son, Sergeant Tom Sullivan, was referred for psychological counseling when he was physically sick with unexplained health problems. What our son needed was a doctor like Dr. Miller, who looked for answers before giving up.”

The special event on November 10 will be held at the ceremonial gate of Arlington Cemetery, where Sergeant Sullivan is buried, and will feature a presentation by Dr. Miller.

The Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center (SSC) is dedicated to improving health outcomes for current and former military personnel, especially those who are suffering from emerging, complicated, or currently unexplained post deployment health concerns.  Named in honor of a fallen marine, the Sgt. Sullivan Center promotes the health security of America's troops and the principle that none should be left behind.

Daniel Sullivan
cell: 202-340-6724

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