Expeditionary treatment focus for Army’s premier medical developers during 2024 and beyond
Caitlyn L. Felkoski is a project manager with the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity at Fort Detrick, Md. She leads the roughly two dozen team members of USAMMDA’s Warfighter Expeditionary Medicine and Treatment Project Management Office, which works with stakeholders and medical developers within the DoD, academia, and industry to find and develop novel solutions for the challenges facing medical officers, medics, and corpsmen at the far reaches of the globe. “I've always been interested in science and helping others,” said Felkoski, who was raised in Havre de Grace, Maryland, and graduated from Virginia Tech with a chemistry degree in 2011 before earning a master’s in biotechnology management from the University of Maryland University College (now University of Maryland Global Campus) in 2017. “A natural marriage of those two is medicine. Although I did not pursue a medical career in the traditional sense, I enjoy that I get to use my science background and project management skills to support our mission and help the Warfighter.” USAMMDA, the DoD’s premier developer of world-class military medical capabilities, develops, delivers, and fields critical drugs, vaccines, biologics, devices, and medical support equipment to protect and preserve the lives of Warfighters across the globe. (U.S. Army Courtesy Photo/Released) (Photo Credit: T. T. Parish) VIEW ORIGINAL

Anyone familiar with WWII will remember the 16 mm film footage of American Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen fighting on the far-flung beaches of the South Pacific, at Normandy, Leyte Gulf, and in the skies above Nazi-occupied Europe. The base of those epic and historic operations were the expeditionary forces and naval armadas that moved men and materiel from their origin in the United States to Iwo Jima, Bastogne, Sicily, and Tinian, and countless other front lines that made WWII the bloodiest conflict in human history.

But that was eight decades ago, a full lifetime of military and warfighting advances. Then, as now, expeditionary readiness was the building block of American military might and the core tenet of armed diplomacy in the face of conflict against adversaries and peer competitors. Today, the advantages of 80 years of research and development combine modern warfighting technologies with unmatched treatment and evacuation capabilities to give U.S. joint forces a lethal edge during possible future conflicts in the littorals of the Indo-Pacific and arctic regions across the globe.

The connective tissue between past and present, at least as far as expeditionary military medical treatment is concerned, are the medical developers in the U.S. Department of Defense who have applied lessons learned since 1945 to hone the practice of military medicine to a razor’s edge. Today’s Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines are equipped and trained to assess, stabilize, and treat the most grievous combat wounds and injuries at and near the front lines better than ever before. Leading these advancements are the medical developers belonging to the Warfighter Expeditionary Medicine and Treatment Project Management Office and adjacent development teams with the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

“The WEMT mission is to develop or modify FDA-cleared medical devices to deliver new capabilities to the field for the Army and Joint Force,” said Caitlyn L. Felkoski, WEMT’s project manager. “This entails closing capability gaps for injured Warfighters with material solutions. Not only do the [project teams within WEMT] focus on saving lives, we also focus on equipping military medical providers with the resources needed to function in austere operational environments. This includes looking at ways to help reduce the cognitive burden on our providers as they are treating multiple casualties simultaneously, as well as products that can function in a wide range of temperature and environmental conditions.”

Fort Detrick is admittedly far from the front lines. But the WEMT mission, and the expertise of its team members, has far-reaching and lifesaving effects for the men and women deployed across the world preparing for tomorrow’s wars. Each day, the WEMT team partners with stakeholders and medical developers within the DoD, academia, and industry to find and develop novel solutions for the challenges facing medical officers, medics, and corpsmen at the far reaches of the globe.

Felkoski, who was raised in Havre de Grace, Maryland, graduated from Virginia Tech with a chemistry degree in 2011 before earning a master’s in biotechnology management from the University of Maryland University College (now University of Maryland Global Campus) in 2017. Below, she explains her role as project manager and how the WEMT team she leads is building its development programs to equip America’s Warfighters.

Q: Tell us a little about how you came to be WEMT’s project manager.

CF: I've always been interested in science and helping others. A natural marriage of those two is medicine. Although I did not pursue a medical career in the traditional sense, I enjoy that I get to use my science background and project management skills to support our mission and help the Warfighter.

I began working for the Army as a contractor at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency in 2018, and then moved over to USAMMDA when the Medical Devices group transitioned from USAMMA to USAMMDA. I became a Department of the Army civilian in 2019 when I took a position with WEMT as a product manager. In 2021 I became the deputy project manager for WEMT, and I’ve been the project manager since the beginning of 2024.

Q: What are some of WEMT’s emphasis areas and programs in support of the Warfighter?

CF: Our PMO is lucky in the sense that we get to touch so many different innovative technologies. Our focus is predominately medical devices, although we have looked at some biologics in the form of tissue-engineered medical products. Additionally, we manage the BioFabUSA Manufacturing Innovation Institute, funded through the Office of the Secretary of Defense Manufacturing Technology Program, which supports scale-up and manufacturing for cellular-based products.

Our programs range from devices and consumables for treating severe injuries, such as burns and hemorrhage control, to products in support of forward oxygen availability, as well as triage capabilities like medical monitoring and imaging, and finally enabling technologies such as sterilization. (* To find out more about the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI)’s BioFabUSA, visit https://www.manufacturingusa.com/institutes/biofabusa.)

Q: How would you describe your leadership philosophy as a PM?

CF: Honestly, I think it's hard to boil down to a single philosophy for leadership. Each situation requires me to be flexible and adapt to the team's needs in that moment. At times, I am the single decision maker and the responsible party; at other times, I work to empower the team to have autonomy and make decisions within their scope. It's important to me that each person be fulfilled and find value in their role within the PMO, and I believe that comes with autonomy and ownership of their own projects and responsibilities. I also highly value continuing education and lifelong learning through trainings, conferences, and higher education.

Q: Can you speak to the importance of collaboration in the work of your team and USAMMDA as a whole?

CF: No individual can complete the mission on their own. It requires a host of subject matter experts in science, manufacturing, regulatory and FDA considerations, clinical work, cybersecurity, logistics, and project management knowledge, along with input from the end user. No one person can be an expert in all these areas. It takes a village – and WEMT, USAMMDA, and our partners all need to work together to accomplish the mission.

Q: How does teamwork produce better results for WEMT in support of the Warfighter?

CF: Medical device development creates a series of complex problems that can only be solved through teamwork, innovation, and problem solving. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and diversity ultimately brings out the best in us through teamwork. When we work together, we not only highlight our individual strengths, but also improve upon our weaknesses. Working through our differences and functioning as a team brings about innovation, problem solving, creativity and growth, all of which are critically important to the WEMT mission.

Q: How does WEMT work to stay ahead of the curve in addressing the future medical treatment needs of the Warfighter?

CF: Focusing on medical treatment needs is our core mission, and we are constantly looking toward the future operational environment. The medical technology market develops at an ultra-fast pace in the era of artificial intelligence and machine learning assisted devices. To stay ahead of the curve, we work with our capability developers to understand current capability gaps, and with our science and technology partners to understand the work that is in progress. We are also continuously assessing the market through vendor days, conferences, and publications.

Q: What are some of your strategic goals for the WEMT team in 2024 and beyond?

CF: WEMT is part of the USAMMDA group that is transitioning to the Defense Health Agency later this year. As part of the transition, we are looking forward to strengthening our relationship with our Joint Service partners within DHA.

At a tactical level, the WEMT PMO has multiple acquisition milestone decision reviews for programs over the next year. Milestone decision reviews are no small effort, and to have four of them over the next year will require significant oversight and planning. I look forward to accomplishing these with the team.

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USAMMDA, the DoD’s premier developer of world-class military medical capabilities, develops, delivers, and fields critical drugs, vaccines, biologics, devices, and medical support equipment to protect and preserve the lives of Warfighters across the globe. To find out more about the USAMMDA mission and how to connect with the WEMT medical developers, visit https://usammda.health.mil/index.cfm/project_management/tissue.

*Link(s) are for informational purposes only and does/do not imply USAMMDA, U.S. Army or DoD endorsement.