By Ms. Sarah Maxwell (RDECOM)August 20, 2008
The Medical Research and Materiel Command's Bill Howell was selected above many of his civilian peers by the Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry as being one of the most notable people in his field.
As MRMC's Principle Assistant for Acquisition since 2005, Howell's leadership impacts more than $300 million in medical technology development from proof-of-concept through to procurement, according to his nomination letter.
"We are aware that the military, in particular, the U.S. Army, through its U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, is a major contributor of the funds and manpower to medical device development," said Sherrie Conroy, editor-in-chief MD&DI magazine, which is the industry's leader in news and information.
Hemostatic (chitosan) bandages and digitally enhanced imaging are just two examples of equipment developed through Howell's office to meet the Army's needs but are now a part of the greater civilian healthcare industry.
"I was very surprised but pleased by such recognition because it comes from the commercial medical device industry vice the military establishment," said Howell.
Being recognized in his field highlights a major challenge in his job. He is responsible for keeping the Army's needs in the forefront while putting them into the context of the business commodity in which the industry operates, he said.
The pharmaceutical industry, which produces the Army's drugs and vaccines, is dominated by large-scale firms, but innovation is largely driven by small start-up biotech firms. In the device market, firms range from giants like Johnson and Johnson to one product line companies such as Hemcon, Inc. It's his job to know how to work with the "menagerie" of firms to forge partnerships that will help give Soldiers the best medical products available, translating to the best care possible.
"If I have any accomplishments to tout, it is my ability to understand the market segments, be flexible in how I approach their potentials, and remember that both sides (industry and the Army) must be satisfied to build a lasting supplier of valuable goods," he said.
Howell added that MRMC has been very successful and in some areas leads the medical device market with its ability to collaborate with industry to field hundreds of products and search for new innovations that have the potential to save the lives of Soldiers and civilians.
"Not only did we satisfy the Army's need, but we helped an industry market that keeps our partners financially stable and able to continue to provide modernized equipment into the future," he said. "A classic win-win that meets everyone's needs."
Howell is set to retire this fall after 34 years in government service, working for the U.S. Army Medical Command for the last 25. His expertise and leadership in MRMC will be missed tremendously, said Maj. Gen. George Weightman MRMC commander.
"Bill Howell is a godsend and has single handedly had the greatest impact on MRMC of anyone who has ever worked here," said Weightman. "Bill is a master of the acquisition process; however, his true value is in making a seamless transition from our advanced development concepts to acquiring real products that we can provide to the warfighter."
The Medical Research and Materiel Command falls under the auspices of the U.S. Army Medical Command to provide medical knowledge and materiel lifecycle management to protect, treat and optimize Warfighter health and performance across the full spectrum of operations.