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News | May 14, 2024

Medical researchers present work at Walter Reed's annual symposiums

By Bernard Little, WRNMMC, Office of Command Communications

Researchers at Walter Reed carrying on the distinguished medical legacies of Robert A. Phillips (RAP) and Bailey K. Ashford (BKA), presented their investigative projects to judges during the annual research competitions hosted by the medical center’s Department of Research Programs (DRP) on May 6.

U.S. Navy Capt. (Dr.) Melissa Austin, director of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and a pathologist, said the RAP and BKA awards recognize the excellence in research done at WRNMMC by both staff and trainees.

“Research is the life’s blood of this organization,” Austin shared. She explained military-relevant research and clinical inquiries are top priorities for Walter Reed, and she called the projects in this year’s competitions impressive. She also noted that many of those doing the research are the ones at the bedside, intimately involved with the patient and seeking ways to improve health care.

“Based on what I’ve seen today, the future is very, very bright for research within our organization and the Military Healthcare System,” Austin added.

The RAP and BKA research competitions are part of DRP’s annual observance of Research and Innovation Month, held during May and in its 16th year. The competitions are named for two distinguished researchers in military medical history.

This year’s project for the RAP award for interns and residents in the laboratory category focused on trends in strength of various quadriceps tendon graft sizes, presented by Navy Lt. (Dr.) Richard Lee.

For the RAP award for fellows and staff in the laboratory category, Dr. Jordyn Tumas and her team’s work focused on prognostic biomarker validation in high-grade serous carcinoma with ovarian tumor tissue analysis. In the same category, Dr. Julian Acasio presented her team’s work focused on evaluating mobility outcomes after limb loss.

For the BKA award in the laboratory category, Army Maj. (Dr.) Susanne Jokajtys explained her team’s work regarding unique molecular profiles in splenic metastasis in high-grade serous ovarian cancer.

Projects in the RAP award for interns and residents in the clinical category included Army Maj. (Dr.) Umar Khan and his team’s work investigating open tibia fracture fixation coverage and the rate of deep infection; Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Margaret Hasler and her colleagues’ work in the prediction of the need for neonatal phototherapy; and Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Scott Feeley and his team’s research concerning type V acromioclavicular joint dislocations during acute fixation.

Also, in the RAP award for interns and residents in the clinical category, Khan also presented research focused on delayed amputation and surgical site infection in patients with lower extremity open fractures and major arterial injuries, as well as work looking at if antibiotic bed pouches prevent fracture-related infections and complications.

Feeley also presented a second research project in the category, this one focused on cryotherapy with compression versus cryotherapy alone after arthroscopic orthopaedic surgery.

In the RAP award for fellows and staff in the clinical category, Army Maj. (Dr.) Christopher Stark and his team researched maternal and fetal health risks among female military aviation officers. Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Ashley Anderson and her colleagues investigated periprosthetic joint infection in patient with total hip and knew arthroplasty undergoing colonoscopy.

Army Capt. (Dr.) Robert Sgrignoli and his team researched the impact of deployment on survival in military personnel with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Army Capt. (Dr.) Zachary Kopelman and his team’s work focused on the disparities in clinical outcomes and molecular features in black and white patients with endometrioid endometrial carcinoma.

In addition to Stark, other presenters for the BKA award in the clinical category included Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Karin Brockman, whose team studied sarcoma distribution in Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. Army Capt. (Dr.) Steven Nemcek also presented his team’s work concerning the association of failure to provide physical needs with child removal in U.S. Army families with substantiated incidents of child neglect. Sgrignoli presented his team’s work focused on the long-term risk on monoclonal gammopathy and neoplasia in U.S. service members exposed to burn pits during military deployment top Iraq (2005-2007).

The BKA award is named for the late Army Col. (Dr.) Bailey K. Ashford (1873-1934). He pioneered treatment of anemia. Ashford researched treatment against the hookworm while stated in Puerto Rico, which led to the cure of approximately 300,000 people (about one-third the population of Puerto Rico at the time), reducing the death rate from associated anemia by 90 percent.

The late Navy Capt. (Dr.) Robert A. Phillips (1906-1976), after whom the RAP award is named, did seminal research leading to therapies that helped save the lives of hundreds of thousands of cholera victims. During World War II, Phillips developed battlefield methods to evaluate hemoglobin levels using specific gravity and saving many lives. He later focused his scientific attention to research on the problems of nutrition in the developing areas of the world.

“Walter Reed’s reputation as a leading training and research hub is build on a foundation of excellence and discovery,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Wesley Campbell, director for Education, Training and Research (DETR) at the medical center. “At the heart of our mission is a commitment to deliver cutting-edge care and nurture the next generation of medical researchers and health care professionals. Here, we’re shaping the future of medicine through groundbreaking research and advanced training programs. Our dedicated professionals are not just providing care but pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in medical science,” he shared.
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