Late last month, Secretary Bob McDonald crowned Laurine Carson’s idea as the winner of VA’s Brain Trust: Pathways to InnoVAtion, a two-day event designed to facilitate innovative ways to help Veterans living with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Carson won for her cognitive, electronic application idea called TECi, which stands for Trusted, Empathic, Calming, and Insightful, that will serve Veterans as a trusted companion by learning, understanding, and interacting with them during rehabilitation and recovery of their injuries.
The inspiration for TECi originated from one of her daughters. Late one evening, Carson heard her daughter speaking to someone in her room. When the concerned mother investigated, she discovered that her daughter was actually interacting with her iPhone via Siri.
“My daughter said that she and all of her friends talk to Siri all the time,” said Carson, who as worked for the Veterans Benefits Administration for 27 years. Her daughter went on about Siri’s features and how the application helped her plan her day.
At the event, Carson reflected back on that evening with her daughter and thought a device similar to Siri with a Veteran-specific, voice-recognizing feature could assist Veterans and their caregivers by helping them organize their schedule, reminding them to take medications, giving them affirmations and providing other cognitive response actions.
“Innovation can come from anywhere and anybody,” said Carson, who is the assistant director of the policy staff in Compensation Service. “The only prerequisite is our willingness to care about the people we serve.”
Carson is developing her idea with the help of Dr. Katherine Veazey Morris, Polytrauma Psychologist at Memphis VA Medical Center; Dr. Nazanin Bahraini, Clinical Research Psychologist and Director of Education, Rocky Mountain Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center; Holly Crimm, a master’s level social work student at the University of Alabama; Timothy Pavlick, Cognitive Psychologist and Chief Technology Officer for IBM’s Public Sector consulting business; and Col. Sidney Hinds, DoD Brain Health Research Program Coordinator and Medical Advisor, Principal Assistant for Research and Technology, Medical Research and Materiel Command.
From here, Carson and her team will continue to develop their idea through research and design.
“We have to develop a prototype and test it,” Carson said. “We will continue to work with VA’s Center for Innovation to ensure that this idea becomes a reality for Veterans and their families.”