After a month in a coma and years of rehabilitation, Burns' life shifted gears again, when he became a volunteer for ThinkFirst, a national brain and spinal cord injury prevention program with its Oregon chapter at Oregon Health & Science University. As a VIP, or Voice for Injury Prevention, Burns now speaks to Portland-area students about the dangers of high-speed living.
"When something happens to you, it's not just you who it affects," Burns said he tells elementary, middle and high school students from his wheelchair. "You don't see the aftermath of this person's head being split wide open. You don't see the grieving family. You don't see the lives that are changed."
Such messages appear to be working, according to a review of the ThinkFirst program in this month's Journal of Neurosurgery. Researchers in the Department of Neurology, OHSU School of Medicine, examined the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation, created in 1986, and found it made significant strides in preventing injury by combining education with legislative initiatives, community-wide safety programs and a large public presence nationwide. The study says the program demonstrates the importance of injury prevention as a valuable component of the nation's medical system.
"We wanted to see if ThinkFirst was an efficacious program," said Rae Rosenberg, ThinkFirst Oregon program coordinator and lead study author. "The article shows that ThinkFirst significantly improves knowledge of prevention among program participants."