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North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

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VA Researcher’s Virtual World Helps Veterans Heal

virtual grocery store

This virtual grocery store or V-Mart, developed by Dr. Charles Levy, helps Veterans suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injuries return to their communities better able to cope with everyday life.

By Virginia Hessels, Dissemination Coordinator, VA Center of Innovation on Disability and Rehabilitatio
Thursday, August 6, 2015

Dr. Charles Levy was taken completely by surprise on May 15, 2015 when he was called to the stage at the North Florida South Georgia Veterans Health System Research Day ceremonies and presented with the 2015 Paul B. Magnuson Award by Dr. Stephen Nadeau, NF/SGVHS Associate Chief of Staff for Research.

Although Dr. Levy, Chief of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service at NF/SGVHS and Co-Director of the VA’s Center of Innovation on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, Gainesville site, has received many awards in his career, the Magnuson Award is special. It is the highest honor that can be earned by a VA Rehabilitation Research and Development (RR&D) investigator, and is given to recognize extraordinary entrepreneurship, humanitarianism, and dedication to Veterans, as shown by Dr. Magnuson.

The only other VISN 8 researcher to receive the award was Dr. Leslie Gonzalez-Rothi, winner in 2006, and formerly with the
VA’s RR&D Brain Rehabilitation Research Center.

Dr. Levy works with returning combat Veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and leads several ongoing innovative projects designed to reduce cognitive and emotional impairments and to improve service delivery through telehealth.

Dr. Levy’s Virtual Environments for Therapeutic Solutions (VETS) research project is building an online virtual reality grocery store (V-Mart) to help therapists assess and treat Veterans with problems in memory, concentration and emotional control, to help Veterans reenter civilian life.  

The therapist chooses store challenges, from simple item selection, price and nutritional comparisons, to more difficult challenges such as dealing with a rude cashier or an in-store collision. 

The therapist also controls the number, appearance, and conversations of people in the store, as well as the level and content of the sound. The virtual store then becomes a platform to practice every day skills, to gain insight into problems, and to learn the habits of success.  Over time, it is the goal of this project to use the virtual store to help Veterans enter real stores and other environments, equipped to handle the tasks of daily life.

Although it is still being developed,  the VETS project is just one of many that have earned Dr. Levy membership in the very exclusive club of Magnuson winners, giving returning combat Veterans he works with--as well as those he may never meet--good reason to hope for their futures.

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