VA researchers receive coveted service award for ground-breaking work with paralyzed Veterans



For more than 25 years, Bill Bauman and Ann Spungen have worked together to make the lives of paralyzed Veterans better. Last night, their dedication to their patients at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx was recognized as the pair was awarded the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Science and Environment Medal.

The annual award ceremony, presented by the Partnership for Public Service in Washington, D.C., showcased the best and brightest employees the federal government has to offer.

Bauman and Spungen’s research focused on understanding the effects spinal cord injuries have on the human body. Eventually, they were able to attribute illnesses, like increased heart disease and asthma-like lung conditions, to high levels of paralysis. Once they were able to find the root causes of the conditions affecting their patients, Bauman and Spungen were able to create treatment plans for Veterans across VA’s healthcare system.

“Many of our facilities perform groundbreaking work and that work serves as a model for the nation,” said VA Secretary Bob McDonald. “I am proud of William and Ann. Any research institution would be proud to have these leading scientists, but they have chosen VA for their careers and we are proud to call them our own.

Sec. Bob McDonald (left) presents the Service to America Science and Environment Award to Ann Spungen, Ph.D., and William Bauman, M.D., for their work with paralyzed Veterans during the 2014 Sammies in Washinginton, D.C. (REYNALDO LEAL/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Sec. Bob McDonald (left) presents the Service to America Science and Environment Award to Ann Spungen Ph.D., and William Bauman, M.D., for their work with paralyzed Veterans during the 2014 Sammies in Washinginton, D.C. (REYNALDO LEAL/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

The duo, who join the ranks of past notable Science and Environment Medal recipients like NASA’s David Lavery and the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center’s Patricia Guerry, were welcomed to the stage by Secretary Bob McDonald and special guest, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran David Lowell.

Lowell, who was paralyzed in a car accident, was one of the first Veterans to use the Re-walk device introduced by Bauman and Spungen to the Bronx VAMC and he said it changed his life.

“I had the great fortune of meeting Dr. Bauman and Dr. Spungen shortly after my accident,” Lowell said to a packed Andrew Mellon Auditorium. “I just have the upmost respect for [them].”

Although the night and award was dedicated to them, Bauman was quick to give credit to the team of researchers and doctors at the Bronx VAMC, and the dedication VA has for funding cutting-edge research like theirs.

“There is something special about being afforded the opportunity to broadly assist others,” Bauman said. “I was taught that if I can contribute to improve the lives of others, provide innovative care and reduce suffering — then it is a privilege to do so. Federal service allows you to do so in a grand manner.”

Inspired by the work of these great medical professionals? Read more about VA’s national recruiting effort for medical professionals here, and visit http://www.vacareers.va.gov/ to see how you can start your career at VA.

Author

Reynaldo Leal

– Reynaldo Leal is a public affairs officer for VA’s office of Digital Media Engagement and member for the VAntage Point’s staff. He is a proud Marine Corps Veteran who deployed to the Al Anbar Province with 3rd Battalion 5th Marine Regiment in 2004 and 2006. He also took part in some of the heaviest fighting during Operation Phantom Fury in 2004.