Clinical research is done with the goal of improving the
quality of life for a specific population. Often, the long-term benefits are not
seen in a study’s current participants, and instead the findings from these
studies improve quality of life for patients in the future. For one Chronic
Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium (CENC) participant however, participation in
the study caught a potentially serious health issue early on that otherwise may
not have been found until much later.
SFC (Retired) and current CENC participant Kevin Hopper
served in the United States Army for over 20 years on Active Duty and completed
two tours in Iraq. During his time in the military, he sustained a mild traumatic
brain injury (mTBI), as is very common amongst Service Members. Their exposure
to blasts during both combat and training exercises make it likely that they
may even sustain multiple mTBIs. Hopper’s combat experience and time in the
Army made him a perfect candidate for CENC’s Observational Study on Late
Neurologic Effects of OEF/OIF/OND Combat.
Hopper first learned about CENC as a psychology student at
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, Va.
“I heard about CENC through Military Student Services at VCU
where I had a work study position. Stephen Ross [director of Military Student
Services] thought I would be a good candidate as an older soldier. I got in
touch with [CENC Military Coordinator and Program Specialist], LTC (Retired)
Kevin Sickinger, and we went from there,” Hopper said.
Part of Hopper’s involvement in the study involved
undergoing an MRI, which allowed CENC researchers and medical experts to have a
look at his brain. That was when the potentially serious health matter came to
“They found a mass in my brain, but they weren’t sure what
it was. I had another MRI and a cat scan, which allowed them to see it was a
tumor…I recently had an appointment with my neurologist, and it turns out from
what they say, it looks like it’s a fatty [benign] tumor,” Hopper said.
Hopper explained that the tumor will continue to be
monitored, but due to a move, his treatment and participation will transfer to
Syracuse, N.Y. Even with the move, Hopper is grateful to the Richmond VA CENC
“I really appreciate all of the support the CENC team gave
me. They are a great team, and they care for our military. I can’t thank them
enough,” he said.
Sickinger echoed Hopper’s thoughts.
“As a veteran myself, it is clear to see that this team is
so dedicated to advancing treatment for other Veterans and Service Members,” he
said. “CENC plays a valuable role in ensuring that mTBI research is always
continuing forward and constantly improving.”
From his experiences with CENC, Hopper also encouraged other
Service Members and Veterans to sign up for the study.
of today are our future. Maybe they could find something on me that they could
fix for the next guy coming up…Join the CENC, and become one of the research
subjects to help your fellow soldier,” he said.