Traveling Exchange Program for Regenerative Medicine
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity's Tissue Injury and Regenerative Medicine Program Management Office managed a Regenerative Medicine Traveling Exchange Program in mid-September. The program provides an opportunity for medical fellows to visit medical research sites across the United States to learn in-depth about regenerative medicine research.

The medical fellows who were selected are Army, Navy and Air Force physicians with an interest in regenerative medicine research. The five fellows selected this year were:

• Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Bradley, assistant professor at Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, and trauma surgeon at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland

• Lt. Col. Megan Burgess, plastic surgeon at University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas

• Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Grabo, trauma surgeon at Navy Trauma Training Center at Los Angeles County and University of Southern California Medical Center

• Col. Booker King, director of Burn unit at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research and general surgeon at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas

• Lt. Col. John Oh, chief of General Surgery Service at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland

"This is the second Regenerative Medicine Traveling Exchange Program. The first was held in 2011," said Dr. Wendy Dean, TIRM medical advisor at USAMMDA as she explained the details of the program. "The intention is for this effort to be biennial, if not an annual event, so that military surgeon scientists remain engaged in guiding product development and in shaping clinical trials."

"Fellows were selected through each service's Office of the Surgeon General," said Dean. "We requested that the nominees be mid-career, with a trauma specialty and with interest in regenerative medicine research."

Participating sites included Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts; University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania; and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. The sites selected are a part of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, which is a multi-institutional, interdisciplinary network of universities, military laboratories and investigators.

Tissue reconstruction, facial muscle and craniofacial reconstruction, vascularized composite allotransplantation, hand and arm transplantation -- these are some of the discussions shared among program fellows and regenerative medicine experts. Much of this medicine and research appears be something of the future, but it is in fact a part of current regenerative medicine efforts.

Sharing this knowledge and research with the fellows provides the opportunity to raise awareness of the current regenerative medicine program and educate future medical experts. The ability to transplant new hands or arms on an amputee, or transplant a new face onto a patient, to regrow healthy skin from previously burned and scarred skin; the need for skilled medical expertise in regenerative medicine is critical.

"The goals of the program are: to educate military surgeon scientists about the products in development by academic partners to address gaps in care; to provide opportunities for collaboration between the military clinicians and academic partners; and to develop leadership champions in each of the Services for regenerative medicine efforts," said Dean.

According to Dean, feedback is still coming in, but the consensus from travelers was that this year's program was absolutely worthwhile, and that the program should be offered each year.

The five selected fellows received first-hand experience into some of the country's leaders in regenerative medicine. As each of these medical professionals grows at their own respective institutions, they will carry this experience with them. They will carry the knowledge of the doctors that are working across the country, performing medicine some would describe as science fiction. These fellows will remember the patients they met; with missing limbs, the scarred faces, and the stories to go along with each one. This experience will be a part of their medical history and our countries future medical professionals. The Traveling Exchange Program is an example of how military and academia collaborate to advance regenerative medicine.