USAMMDA leader, Iraq War Veteran sets example for future female leaders

By T. T. ParishMarch 30, 2023

Kendra Lawrence is not afraid to speak her mind. The Ph.D. and native of Nashville, Tennessee, carries the mantle of responsibility that goes along with leading one of the U.S. Army’s premier medical development teams: the Warfighter Protection and Acute Care Project Management Office.

The WPAC team members of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity at Fort Detrick, Maryland, focus exclusively on developing, improving, modernizing, and fielding U.S. FDA-approved preventions, diagnostics, and treatments for infectious diseases and combat wound infections; blood products and blood components; and drugs for battlefield pain management.

Lawrence, an Iraq War Veteran, is a driving force behind all the efforts. Her experiences as a Soldier-Scientist, contractor and Army civilian give her great insight into the evolving and expanded role women play in today’s Army.

Lawrence hopes the role she plays, and the roles of her female colleagues across the U.S. Army medical development enterprise, will inspire new generations of public servants. Recognizing the roles women play and their contributions to the nation is a way to help lay the groundwork for future female leaders, said Lawrence.

“I think, number one, [Women’s History Month] provides recognition that women deserve, that often may have been overlooked because maybe there was a male counterpart also included in that accomplishment in the past,” said Lawrence. “It also gives younger women and young girls some role models to look up to, to say ‘Look at the kinds of things women can achieve, and things to strive for’.”

For Lawrence, who served as an Army entomologist from 2003 to 2011 before joining USAMMDA as a contractor in 2012, her experiences as a combat Veteran help hone her focus and sharpen her resolve to lead the WPAC team’s development efforts. She need not look to high profile women leaders as examples, her inspirations are often only feet away, she said.

“I think, in terms of mentors or people to look up to, a lot of times it is my colleagues, women who are doing fantastic jobs and fantastic work, and who are super smart and make great contributions on a day-to-day basis,” said Lawrence. “It doesn’t have to be that you won the Nobel Prize, or you discovered radium – it can be just the day-to-day work. And that is actually where I find a lot of inspiration, in my female colleagues, and how committed and dedicated they are what they bring to the table.”

The WPAC team, comprised of nearly three dozen Soldiers, Army civilians and contractors, works to develop and deliver FDA-approved treatment and prevention products to save and preserve lives. The team’s focus and collaborative efforts result in a culture of teamwork rather than competition, while partnering with a broad group of experts within the DoD, other government agencies, academia, and industry to ensure advanced care of ill and injured Warfighters, according to Lawrence.

Her experiences as a Soldier and as a leader in USAMMDA give Lawrence an appreciation for the strengths of diverse thoughts and perspectives, with credit for her team’s milestone accomplishments shared by all.

“Women bring a lot of things to the table, in addition to being as qualified as our male colleagues and counterparts – I think we also bring a diversity of ways of looking at things, and our experience is very likely to be different than a male colleagues experience, and we can bring that to the table at all ranks,” said Lawrence. “I am very proud to lead a diverse team of personnel. Everyone brings valuable experience and skills to the table to allow us to successfully accomplish our mission.”