GV Expo: Dr. Denise Krch Sees VR Possibilities for Medical Field

The technology can be used for a range of treatments, but its deployment must meet efficacy standards

WASHINGTON—Virtual reality offers its users all kind of possibilities, whether it be traveling to far off places, or experiencing a sporting event in a never before seen way. But it did not take long in the career of Dr. Denise Krch, a research scientist at the Kessler Foundation who will be a speaker at the 2017 Government Video Expo, to see the possibilities that VR could have in a different kind of environment, the medical field.

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Dr. Denise Krch

After receiving her PHD in clinical neuropsychology from The Graduate Center and Queens College, CUNY, Dr. Denise Krch had a different view of where her career may lead. Originally believing she would head into the clinical realm, Krch ultimately found herself with a post-doc position at the Kessler Foundation in New Jersey, doing research.

“When I got there I just fell in love with all of the possibilities of what we were able to in this job,” said Krch, “the ability to explore any area you wanted to and fill in the gaps for what I thought was missing when I was doing clinical work.”

She joined the Kessler Foundation full time in 2011. That same year, Albert “Skip” Rizzo from the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies presented at Kessler Foundation’s Estabrook Distinguished Science Lectureship. Krch said she was struck by the capabilities of VR as a tool for rehab and soon began working with colleagues of Rizzo on pilot projects utilizing VR technology.

Her first project, created with Sebastian T. König, who now works as the director for Australian-based company Katana Simulations Pty Ltd., was a VR-based office environment that sought to measure complex executive functions, e.g., prospective memory, divided attention. “This was a great first project because we learned a lot about what to do and what was working, but we also learned about what not to do, what was challenging for subjects, what really got in the way of us trying to measure what we were looking to measure,” said Krch. This would help lead to Krch’s first funded program from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research.

In recent years, Krch has paid attention to other VR efforts across the medical field, including the use of AR/VR to distract patients during burn treatments and the use of VR to help wounded warriors  who have returned home with PTSD . The main challenge with implementing VR in treatment programs that directly serve patients is the need to verify their efficacy. “At the end of the day, once we’ve created something we have to demonstrate that it works and that is has significant impact on the patients we’re trying to serve,” Krch explained.

Still, Krch sees a bright future for the use of VR in the medical field. “The sky’s the limit with what I feel like our work can do going forward and building on the work that we’ve done so far.”

Dr. Denise Krch will be one of the speakers on the panel “From Research to (Virtual) Reality” at the 2017 Government Video Expo, which will take place from Nov. 28-30 in Washington, D.C.

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