By Kirstin Grace-Simons (Madigan Army Medical Center)May 14, 2018
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, WASH. -- "The caliber of the research that the trainees and staff are involved in and presenting is really phenomenal," said Navy Capt. (Dr.) Timothy Burgess, director of the Department of Defense's Infectious Disease Clinical Research Program at the Uniformed Service University in Bethesda, Md., at Madigan Army Medical Center's Research Day on May 4.
He was one of three officers evaluating the three presentation sessions. Though not new to judging, this was the first time Burgess has done so at Madigan. In addition to these sessions, two guest lectures took place in Letterman Auditorium. Complementing these were a poster session and open house in the Department of Clinical Investigation (DCI).
"The integration between graduate medical education -- the training -- and the research focus is really nice to see," said Burgess. "There is a rigorous program here, supported by clinical investigation, that capitalizes on the strength of Madigan as a military treatment facility in that the trainees are able to do some very productive research that is borne of the clinical care that is being provided."
Improving on current practice, and adapting equipment and methods for medical use, were common themes in the research.
Capt. (Dr.) Rowan Sheldon, a resident physician, was not the only presenter to mention that his research findings were being shared with industry in order to produce design changes to equipment.
"We are working with the manufacturer to develop a more robust, field expedient device," he said of his work on the treatment of tension pneumothorax, a condition where air builds up in the lung area, under pressure, which compresses the lungs and reduces blood flow to the heart.
Other researchers have even applied for patents. Capt. (Dr.) Jessica Lentscher, a resident in obstetrics and gynecology, has done so with her work that helps locate pregnancies that occur outside the uterus in a manner that is less invasive and costly than current practice.
A significant element of scientific research is the defense of its findings, and even its impetus.
Serving as one of 12 judges for the poster competition, Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jeremy Pamplin, director of Virtual Critical Care at Madigan, mentored 1st Lt. Vladislava Ivanova, the assistant chief of Outpatient and Community Nutrition Services, on strategies for defending and furthering her research on food insecurity within the military. Her initial response to a query on this research's relevance to the military was that food insecurity damages readiness. She was correct. Pamplin, though, countered by saying that service members eat in dining facilities with their meal cards.
From there, he challenged her to go further and pinpoint specifics by asserting that "the health of families enables better readiness and fighting focus." Pamplin concluded his point by encouraging Ivanova on to develop her research further.
The keynote lecture revolved around a topic of undeniably broad relevance.
"If you can change the way you look at something, you can change the way you do science," offered John Dye, Jr., PhD, chief of Viral Immunology at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Frederick, Md., at the outset of his presentation.
Dye detailed how he and his research team at USAMRIID have been instrumental in the development of countermeasures for high-risk pathogens like the Ebola virus.
Dye adopted a different view by studying what those who survived outbreaks had in common instead of the tack other researchers were taking in looking at those who died. He also noted that getting on the ground at sites where outbreaks occurred, like Uganda, is vital to collecting relevant data.
"There is no more 'my backyard'; we have to start thinking more globally," stressed Dye.
To that end, he asserted that science itself has changed, saying it is, "no longer an individual sitting in a lab." Scientists and researchers must now consider the impacts of both disease and research itself on communities far and wide, and work globally.
In town from Fort Detrick, Md., Maj. Gen. Barbara Holcomb, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command and chief of the Army Nurse Corps, was pleased to take a few moments to speak to the audience gathered in Letterman.
As the commander of a wide range of DoD research assets, Holcomb asked a fundamental question. "What are you for?" Answering her question she offered, "We are for saving lives. We all have a different role in that, but I believe that's what we are all for."
Holcomb also noted that, "The DoD's warfighting experience makes it a natural researcher for civilian solutions -- broad solutions," because it has tested the extremes of equipment and protocol in theater.
Rounding out the day, Col. Suzanne Scott, acting deputy commanding officer, joined Col. Richard Burney, the chief of DCI, to bestow awards in nine categories.
Scott closed the day by saying, "The work that you have done and the brain trust in this room is really humbling."
Editor's note: See accompanying graphic for award winners.