October 12, 2011
11-180

Jessica Pope
Communications Specialist

Dr. Robert Bauer Appointed to Brain & Spinal Injury Trust FundCommission

 

VALDOSTA -- For nearly three months, Valdosta State University’s Dr. Robert Bauer has worked to enhance the lives of those with traumatic injuries as a member of Georgia’s Brain & Spinal Injury Trust Fund Commission.

Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Bauer to the commission on July 21 and charged him with helping to create “a Georgia where people with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries are valued, have equal opportunity and real choices.” Of the 16 members on the commission, 10 are governor appointees.

When asked what it means to him to serve, Bauer referenced the commission’s mission statement, asking that it serve as his response and describing it as both comprehensive and eloquent in its succinctness: “The mission of the Brain & Spinal Injury Trust Fund Commission is to enhance the lives of Georgians with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. Guided by the aspirations of people with traumatic injuries, the commission supports lives of meaning, independence, and inclusion. As the state’s lead agency on traumatic injuries, we administer the Central Registry to identify those who are injured, distribute resources through the Trust Fund, and advocate for improvements in statewide services.”

Bauer said he was initially appointed by Deal to serve the remaining term of a member who resigned. However, if there is an opening when that term comes to an end in December, he welcomes the opportunity to continue to serve.

“Maybe as many as six or seven years ago, I met a nice family here in Valdosta, Alan and Mary Carter, who had been through the trauma of brain injury,” said Bauer, 66, professor and head of the Department of Psychology and Counseling. “Although the brain injury occurred to Mary in a car accident, she and her family changed because of such a tragedy. Mary has recovered very well … As a family, Alan and Mary have recovered successfully and are major advocates for and supporters of those with brain and spinal cord injuries and their families. About two yeas ago, Alan asked me if I wanted to serve on the commission. I said if I can help injured individuals and their families, I would be interested. Alan began a rather convoluted and protracted process of working with legislators to get me nominated and accepted to the commission.”

While the majority of the commission is comprised of members from the Atlanta area, Bauer said there is an attempt to make it more diverse and representative of Georgia’s demography. He said his particular role is to spread the word about what the commission can do for individuals and families with brain and spinal cord injuries.

“I would like to see every injured person who needs help apply for assistance, especially from the underserved areas of the state, such as South Georgia,” he said. “Over the years, I have known more than a dozen individuals, including students and personal friends, who sustained severe head and spinal cord injuries. Unfortunately, most of them did not make as successful a recovery as … Mary Carter.”

Bauer has served as head of VSU’s Department of Psychology and Counseling for 23 years. He is a former Peace Corps volunteer and has served the community on various board and commissions, including Georgia Family Connection (as a board member), the Lowndes/Valdosta Commission for Children and Youth (as a member and chairman), and Elderhostel Inc., an international educational program for persons 60 years of age and over (as a board member).

In November 1998, Georgia voters approved, by 73 percent, a constitutional amendment to create a Trust Fund for brain and spinal injuries, paid for by a 10 percent surcharge on drunk driving fines. The fund provides financial assistance to people with traumatic brain and/or spinal cord injuries once they have exhausted all other payment options in an effort to help them get what they need to live fully inclusive, independent lives. More than $15 million has been awarded to more than 3,000 Georgians with traumatic injuries since 2003.

For more information, contact Dr. Robert Bauer, professor and head of VSU’s Department of Psychology and Counseling, at (229) 333-5930 or bbauer@valdosta.edu. The Brain & Spinal Injury Trust Fund Commission can be found on the Web at www.bsitf.state.ga.us.

NOTE: The Carters’ efforts led to the formation of Valdosta’s Brain & Spinal Injury Support Group. Alan Carter previously served on the Brain & Spinal Injury Trust Fund Commission as, like Bauer, South Georgia’s only representative. His wife was involved in a head-on collision in 1989 that left her in a coma for 30 days, according to a September 2010 story in The Valdosta Daily Times.