MHSRS speakers note need to be ready for the future
Dr. Karen Guice, acting assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, presents the keynote address opening the 2016 Military Health System Research Symposium in Orlando, Florida. During her address, Guice unveiled the MHS Research ASD(HA) Challenge. She encouraged attendees to share their published MHS-funded research findings with her at @DrGuiceMHS.
AN important question military medical research faces is if it is ready for what the future will bring and the role that research arm plays.
“Research is related directly to our readiness (the ability of the military to fight and win on the battlefield),” said Dr. Karen Guice, the acting assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, adding the Military Health System’s role in the medical aspect of readiness is its top priority. “Some components of our military must be ready 100 percent of the time. Military medicine must rise to the occasion to provide the support necessary. We also have to be combat ready 100 percent of the time.”
Guice helped kick off the Military Health System Research Symposium (MHSRS), starting Aug. 15 and running through Aug. 18 in Orlando, Florida. The conference is the Department of Defense’s premier scientific annual meeting and brings together nearly 2,500 military, academic and private health sector researchers to discuss advances and ways forward for the military’s medical system.
She was joined by Navy Rear Adm. Colin Chinn, in charge of the Defense Health Agency’s (DHA) Research, Development and Acquisition Directorate. Chinn explained his directorate is part of the larger DHA effort to support the military services, strengthen DHA’s role as a combat support agency and optimize the agency’s operations. He pointed to advances in innovative research on infectious diseases, such as the fight against Ebola in Africa and the Zika virus worldwide. The key, according to Chinn, is to get the necessary tools into the hands of caregivers so they can save lives.
“How can we get more products to the field, more knowledge into the hands of our clinicians?” asked Chinn. “We need to … identify gaps out there that we can apply our research dollars to.”
Chinn pointed to a picture of a soldier on the battlefield and said it’s important to remember that as exciting as the work is on a personal level, it’s the care of the warfighter that drives what is done.
“It all comes back to what we’re doing to support the warfighter,” said Chinn.
An important part of getting the most out of the military’s medical research efforts is to join forces with other governmental agencies, academia and the private sector, such as those represented by attendees of the MHSRS. To that point, Dr. John Holcomb, with the University of Texas Health Science System in Houston and a retired Army doctor, told those at the opening session it’s important to take advantage of the medical lessons learned during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the good of the military’s trauma system, as well as what the civilian sector can learn from those lessons.
“What’s different about this time period than others is that there’s an organized civilian trauma system to receive those lessons learned from the military,” said Holcomb. “That didn’t exist at the end of Vietnam. It’s an interesting little twist on how we can transition and work together.”
Dr. Richard Thomas, president of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the military’s medical school, told the crowd the world is a complex and challenging place with more than 150,000 U.S. military members in hot spots around the world. Military medics are there with them.
“The United States is the only nation that can project combat power anywhere around the globe. We’re also the only nation that can project medical power the way we do,” he said. “We (the Military Health System) are the foundation for readiness.”
Maj. Gen. Barbara Holcomb, commander of the Army’s Medical Research and Materiel Command, said, considering the global nature of U.S. forces, the medical support of those warfighters is challenging. Research is key to success.
“We require innovative point-of-injury treatment and prolonged field care solutions,” said Holcomb. “We work to overcome these challenges by leveraging cutting-edge research from government laboratories with our academic and industry partners.”
Furthermore, presenters at the opening session of the MHSRS said today’s battlefield is a complicated place with a huge amount of information coming from it. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Koeniger, commander of the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, said there needs to be coordination with academia, government agencies and other organizations to learn more to save lives.
“We really need to help grow our future science and technology and medical researchers,” said Koeniger. “The people sitting out here (at the conference) have done a tremendous amount of work to help our injured soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. However, I think that we’ve just begun to scratch the surface in terms of improving and optimizing human performance.”
Guice concluded saying military medical research must be flexible to help find the solutions for the ever-changing threats the warfighters face. Gatherings like MHSRS help foster the collaboration needed among the military services, other government agencies and the private sector.
“Threats are perpetual. We need to be vigilant and ready to meet them,” said Guice. “Our research agenda will continue to prioritize to meet these threats. But we’ll also need … strategic partnerships [as] force multipliers. We can’t do this alone, and we shouldn’t.