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Military Medical Researchers Honored For Commitment to Warfighters

Members of the COVID-19 Health Action Response for marines Team Members of the COVID-19 Health Action Response for Marines (CHARM) Team at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island supported a study conducted by the Naval Medical Research Center. (NMRC Photo)

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MHS Research Symposium

While the pandemic may have sidelined the 2021 Military Health System Research Symposium, notable accomplishments by military and civilian researchers were recognized by the meeting's organizers through a number of awards.

MHSRS awards honor excellence in medical warfighter-related research at this annual meeting, which is sponsored by the Department of Defense Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. Normally, the symposium would bring together thousands of health care professionals, researchers, and DOD leaders to review the latest scientific advancements in Warfighter-related, DOD-sponsored medical research pursued across the entire military medical enterprise. However, due to the ongoing national emergency surrounding COVID-19, this year's conference was canceled.

"Researchers and medical providers throughout the DOD continue to demonstrate their impressive talents and leadership, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic while continuing to conduct research into the health and well-being of our nation's warfighters," said Terry Adirim, acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. "Readiness remains our top priority while we remain committed to ensuring the health and welfare of our service members, their families, and retirees. These remarkable individuals and teams are to be commended for their devotion to military medicine."

The following individuals received honors for 2021

Patricia A. Deuster is the recipient of one of two 2021 Distinguished Service Awards for lifetime achievement. Deuster is director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Over the past 39 years, Deuster has been a leader in health, nutrition, human physiology, and human performance research. She published more than 260 peer-reviewed papers, shaping performance policy throughout the entire DOD. Her tireless efforts as an educator, collaborator, and mentor built and inspired a generation of human performance leaders.

David Tribble is the recipient of the second 2021 Distinguished Service Awards for lifetime achievement. Tribble is science director of the Uniformed Services University's Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Program, a consortium of military medical centers that is a model for multicenter research in the DOD. Throughout his 34 year career, Tribble led progressive clinical research protocols addressing specific warfighter gaps, resulting in improvements in care and prevention of diseases with significant operational impact.

Christopher Connaboy from the University of Pittsburgh received the Outstanding Individual Research Accomplishment/Academia-Industry award. Connaboy is recognized for contributions related to the prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal injury, specifically, research in the area of 'movement signatures,' contributing to a package of behavioral monitoring approaches that can be implemented remotely and economically in order to monitor a warfighter's health status. This work will ultimately provide military commanders with information to support decision-making related to training, injury risk management, and return-to-duty planning.

Navy Lt. Chad G. Peltier, from the Naval Medical Submarine Research Laboratory in Groton, Connecticut, received the Outstanding Individual Research Accomplishment/Military award. Peltier led efforts to modernize the Submarine Force's psychological screening program and expand new research lines to assess enhanced cognitive performance in the military setting. His work will have lasting fleet-wide impact and ensures the psychological readiness, fitness, and resilience of submariners and nuclear operators.

The following teams received honors for 2021

The Concussion Assessment Research and Education (CARE) Consortium Team received the Outstanding Research Accomplishment/Team-Academia-Industry award. The team lead was Thomas W. McAllister from Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. The CARE Consortium Team is recognized for significant contributions to the identification of diagnostic and prognostic indicators for traumatic brain injury. The team recognized the importance of a large prospective study to advance the understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of concussion and its clinical manifestations. Findings from CARE Consortium studies will have a tremendous impact on this field of science for years to come, with significant implications for the Warfighter.

The Integrated Platform for Clinical Assessment and Monitoring (IPCAM) Research Team, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland was one of two recipients of Outstanding Research Accomplishment/Team-Military award. The team lead was Douglas S. Brungart. The IPCAM Research Team developed a comprehensive auditory research tool, which drove increased readiness through the deployment of a completely new, evidence-based Army Hearing Profile Standard.

The Green-X Research Team, Vision Sciences Laboratory, Naval Medical Research Unit – Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio was the second recipient of Outstanding Research Accomplishment/Team-Military. The team lead was Michael D. Reddix. The Green-X-Research Team made significant contributions to address ongoing health issues in military high performance flight, successfully leading a public-private partnership team to develop an operational product needed to protect aircrew against low Intensity threats from lasers.

In addition, one individual and three teams were recognized for outstanding research accomplishments related to the SARS CoV-2 pandemic.

Laura E. Lamb, from Beaumont Health in Detroit, received the Outstanding Research Accomplishment/Individual/COVID-19 Pandemic-related award. Lamb utilized her molecular biology expertise to develop a technique to detect COVID-19 in under 30 minutes, using urine, blood, saliva, or mouth-swab samples. This rapid test is economical and sensitive, and does not require expensive equipment or medically trained personnel. It was provided freely to the world in mid-2020 through an open access, peer-reviewed article, and since then, has been adapted for use by academia and industry, and utilized in small, rural clinics on every continent except Antarctica.

The first team award recipient was the COVID-19 Health Action Response for Marines (CHARM) Team, Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. The team lead was Navy Cmdr. Andrew G. Letizia. In March 2020, after multiple companies were delayed in graduating from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island because of SARS-CoV-2, understanding and containing the spread of COVID-19 in the recruit setting became a matter of national security. The CHARM study team executed the largest prospective study of SARS­CoV-2 among Active Duty Service Members in the DOD, enrolling 3,472 recruits. The team provided actionable public health data to the Marines and saved thousands of recruit training hours. The results have paved the way for new diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic products.

The second team award went to the Operational Infectious Diseases Laboratory Team at the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego. The team lead was Christopher A. Myers. Teaming up with the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense, this team spearheaded the DOD's laboratory response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This included the design, implementation, and execution of studies leading to Food and Drug Administration authorization of sample pooling strategies. The team managed to rapidly increase sample throughput, decrease turnaround time, and conserve precious reagents. As a direct result of the team's efforts, 13,000 personnel on 21 ships were screened for COVID-19, allowing operational forces to deploy safely.

The third team award went to The Epidemiology, Immunology, and Clinical Characteristics of Emerging Infectious Diseases with Pandemic Potential (EPICC) COVID-19 Cohort Team, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland. USU's Infectious Disease Clinical Research Program was the team lead. The EPICC team enrolled over 3,000 probable and confirmed cases of COVID-19 at 10 military hospitals and clinics, collecting data on the risk factors of severe COVID-19, risk factors in congregate settings, and the impact of COVID-19 on performance and lost duty days among Active Duty subjects. They evaluated therapies and vaccines, characterized vaccine breakthrough infections and variants of concern, and examined "long COVID" cases—situations in which certain people who get COVID-19 are plagued with symptoms for months after being infected.

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