Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Lester Martinez-López kicked off the 2023 Military Health System Research Symposium with a keynote speech on the morning of August 14, delivering powerful words to the more than 4,000 people attending the event. Weaving his heartfelt sentiments into an overall call for action, Martinez put the theme of this year's event – medical readiness for the future fight – into perspective.
"MHSRS is a real homecoming for me," said Martinez. "It's always good to be around other people working hard every day to further the mission of the Military Health System. Especially so with the research community; my respect for what you do grows every day."
Martinez emphasized the critical role military medical research has played in advancing the overall boundaries of medicine. Notably, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command has played a pivotal role in a number of those achievements, including the development of vaccines to treat yellow fever, key breakthroughs in developing blood plasma during World War ll and establishing the foundational research required to create COVID-19 vaccines. During his remarks, Martinez stated his belief that military medicine is critical to the continued health and resiliency of the modern Warfighter.
However, included within that mission is a requirement to care for the people who comprise the military. Accomplishing that goal means setting priorities, which are, according to Martinez: force readiness, medical force readiness and the care of the DOD's beneficiaries. "The importance of military medical research to each of these priorities is very clear," he said. "Health is the foundational aspect of maintaining high-level readiness in our armed forces."
To the medical readiness and achievements across the DOD and MRDC, the Broad-Spectrum Snakebite Antidote development team from the command's Medical Materiel Development Activity was honored during the proceedings with the MHSRS 2023 Outstanding Research Accomplishment Award.
"Your work reflects great credit upon the Army, the Department of Defense and our nation," said Col. J. Brian Lanier, commander of MRDC's Institute of Surgical Research, in presenting the award, which recognized the team's success.
With regard to additional efforts in the military medical research community, Lt. Col. Charlotte Lanteri, director of the Experimental Therapeutics Branch at MRDC's Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, spoke during a breakout session about how MRDC is building antimicrobial countermeasures for wound infections in military personnel – a development which could have an outsize impact in expanding care windows in austere battlefield conditions, among many other benefits.
"This biggest role MRDC plays is being able to help de-risk decisions for partners in industry, academia and others that may have promising molecules already in development for wound infection treatment," said Lanteri. "When organizations partner with us, we can establish collaborations to evaluate new technologies to bring something to the clinic for the Warfighter."
MRDC's reach within the military medical research community was on further display in the MHSRS exhibit hall, with representation by ten of the direct reporting units and offices that drive MRDC's mission: to responsively and responsibly create develop, acquire and deliver capabilities for the Warfighter.