Talk to Pat Modrow long enough and eventually she’ll reel off the name of every organization and research program (if not every current staffer) within the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command. Whether she’s talking about a lab she worked for, an organization she partnered with, or a group of people who can definitely help process that specific request you have, her impact within the Command is a rare one indeed: the kind of person who’s made a consistent difference in the application of USAMRDC’s mission across several decades. In short, Pat Modrow knows how to get things done.
“I like the challenge,” says Modrow, who is scheduled to retire this month from her role as the Program Manager for the Peer Reviewed Medical and Ovarian Cancer Research Programs at the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. “When something poses a challenge I like to try and come up with solutions.”
It’s fair to say that kind of desire – always pushing forward, always digging for answers – is a theme that runs throughout her nearly 40-year career with USAMRDC. Modrow came to CDMRP as a grants manager back in 1995 and worked her way up the ranks, assuming more duties and responsibilities over the course of time. But to paint the full picture of her career at USAMRDC, you have to go back to 1983 – the year she started working at USAMRDC’s U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Massachusetts. That’s when Modrow began honing her trademark dedication to the Command’s mission.
“I was certainly happy for the opportunity to serve, sure,” says Modrow of her role at the time. “But then I thought, ‘how can I do research on the Soldier if I don’t know what it’s like to be a Soldier?’”
So in order to gather the kind of immersive experience only day-to-day reality can provide, Modrow – a biochemist and physiologist by trade – joined the Army Reserves as a 1st Lieutenant, eventually earning the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and serving in an Army field hospital in Boston (where she notably served as the Officer in Charge for training and Company Commander) for both the 309th Field Hospital and the 373rd General Hospital. Modrow remained in the reserves for 20 years, fulfilling her commitment even after moving her young family down to Maryland following her husband, Lt. Col. Harold Modrow (ret.), to Fort Detrick. That’s when she got to work on a number of internal fronts at USAMRDC headquarters.
After that initial stint as CDMRP grants manager, Modrow stepped into the role of Deputy Director for Grants Management. While in that role, she oversaw the implementation of “eReceipt,” USAMRDC’s first-ever electronic receipts system (and the precursor to the Electronic Biomedical Research Application Portal, or eBRAP). From there, she became program manager for the Ovarian Cancer Research Program at CDMRP and – eventually – the CDMRP’s Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program. It’s clear she takes special pride in the work she’s done with the latter.
“The Ovarian Cancer Research Program not only ensures that the research we support benefits women in the military,” says Modrow, noting the positive impact she’s able to provide in such a position, “but [it] also supports spouses and daughters of those serving in the military.”
That level of commitment has, in turn, left a substantial impression on coworkers and friends alike.
“When confronted with a challenge or problem, Dr. Modrow never shied away,” says Dr. Gayle Vaday, who – just like Modrow, it seems – juggles multiple roles as the Interim Deputy Director at CDMRP and one of CDMRP’s two Deputy Directors for Program Management. “She was always analytical, methodical, and sometimes philosophical as she tackled problems from all angles.”
Indeed Vaday, who has known Modrow for more than 15 years and considers her to be both a mentor and a close friend, brings a certain perspective to Modrow’s many achievements. To hear Vaday tell it, Modrow is more than just a top-notch team player and winner, she is – in equal parts – a tutor, a nose-to the-grindstone achiever and a person who sets an example for others simply by the way she approaches her position.
“Dr. Modrow is the type of person to speak up if she has a different perspective or opinion,” says Vaday. “Sometimes she would say what others might not have the courage to say. This side of Pat encouraged others to have the confidence and ability to speak up and be heard.”
As the years progressed, Modrow took on a variety of new and different assignments as well; such as reviewing protocols for clinical trials and clinical research for the Human Subject Use Review Board, serving on the Command’s “Invention and Evaluation Committee,” and helping to beta-test the National Cancer Institute’s massive internal coding system (now known as the Common Scientific Outline, and used by more than 100 funding organizations worldwide). She was even part of the inaugural effort to incorporate “consumers” – or, people living with certain specific diseases or conditions – as part of the peer-review process with the hopes of making stronger, more informed funding recommendations.
“The idea of doing whatever we can do to make a difference with not only the military Service Member but also the veteran and the beneficiaries, that’s my passion,” says Modrow. “It’s not just mission readiness it’s also personal readiness for the military Service Member.”
For Modrow, it is still very much an all-encompassing, everyday effort. And even as her service career winds down, there is still work to do. For the woman who has wielded so many titles across both her intertwining personal and professional lives – from biochemist to mother to program manager to wife to mentor, among others – the work still matters. Indeed, the effort on behalf of the Service Member has always been the most important work of all.
Says Modrow, “It’s passion. I have a passion for what we do. It’s so difficult to explain why, but I do. And that’s what has kept me here – the passion for what we do, and then loving what I do.”
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