For Maj. Barbara Bujak, it’s been a longer journey than most – and in more ways than one, too. As the Executive Officer for U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command’s (USAMRDC) Office of the Chief of Staff, she finds herself in her third official position in less than 18 months – a breakneck pace partially caused by circumstance, and partially caused by the ongoing fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Ever since I took over in October, I see the bigger picture of what goes on within the Command,” says Bujak, a physical therapist by trade working outside of a clinic for the first time in her career. “My pace, what I’ve been doing, has definitely picked up.”
Not that her pace was all that slow to begin with. After arriving to USAMRDC in 2019 to serve as the Military Deputy for the now-dissolved USAMRDC Clinical and Rehabilitative Medicine Research Program (CRMRP) in 2019, she became the acting director of USAMRDC’s Joint Trauma Analysis and Prevention of Injury in Combat (JTAPIC) just months later before switching to her current role in the executive suite late last year.
But given how far she traveled just to start her Army career in the first place, the recent shifting demands are simply part of Bujak’s greater adventure. Originally born in Poland, Bujak (pronounced “BOO-yak”) emigrated to the U.S. with her family when she was just twelve years old. After becoming a naturalized citizen, she attended both middle school and high school in Florida before heading to college in New York. Her Army career began in earnest in 2005 when she was selected to attend the joint Army-Baylor University Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy.
“I joined because the Army was going to pay for my graduate degree,” says Bujak. “I stayed because I had amazing mentors and leaders and have truly enjoyed and appreciated every assignment, opportunity, and challenge the Army has given me.”
That kind of passion for both her chosen profession and overall service has turned into a more than 15-year career for Bujak. How fitting, then, that she now sits in a position where she can use all of her skills – chiefly the pairing of technical science and practical use; the cornerstones of physical therapy – during a time when such expertise is needed most. As part of its enduring effort to detect, prevent, and treat COVD-19, USAMRDC continues to take a central role in the funding, development, and testing of potential novel coronavirus therapeutics and treatments for the Nation. For Bujak, her current role has given her a bird’s eye view of almost everything in USAMRDC’s arsenal.
“At headquarters we can support and we can also enable what everybody does on the ground, especially in the labs and the other sites that fall under MRDC,” says Bujak. “By doing what we do here, we can hopefully make it easier for the scientists to do their jobs.”
Says Col. Stephen Dalal, USAMRDC Chief of Staff, “Maj. Bujak's clinical background as a practicing physical therapist, combined with her [Doctor of Philosophy degree] makes her an incredible asset to the Command because she understands the science and the importance of translating medical research into medical solutions for our Service Members and their families.”
It is perhaps the search for those solutions that has driven her this far; a desire to help people extrapolated outward from basic clinical care to now serving as part of the team providing perspective and guidance for the Army and the Nation during a critical time. For Bujak, the opportunity presents a formidable and welcome challenge – one that justifies all her many travels combined.
“Serving in the U.S. military allowed me to give back for the countless opportunities this country has given me,” says Bujak. “Anyone who knows me also knows that I am a proud Polish-American. The military has allowed me to use my Polish heritage throughout my career, including translating at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center [and] during various multinational exercises and visits. Being a Soldier in the U.S. Army has exceeded any expectations I may have had when I first started.”
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