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News | June 7, 2024

Walter Reed physicians earn research awards

By Bernard Little, WRNMMC, Office of Command Communications

Capping off 2024 Research and Innovation Month, Walter Reed’s Department of Research Programs (DRP) recognized award winners for its poster and symposium competitions during a ceremony on May 22.

Winners in some of the categories advanced to compete in the 39th Annual Navy-wide Academic Research Competition, held virtually May 17. Walter Reed participants walked away with awards in that competition as well.


Walter Reed researchers in the poster competitions presented their work before a panel of judges on May 1-2.

Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Marianna Caballero earned first place in the Paul Florentino Patient and Family-Centered Care and Performance, Quality Improvement poster competitions. Her team’s work focused on a multidisciplinary approach to improve screening for sleep disorder breathing in pediatric patients with sickle cell disease.

The Paul Florentino Patient and Family-Centered Care “puts patients and their families at the heart of medicine,” shared Rachel Jenkins, Ph.D., DRP’s education program specialist and team lead for Research Education Services and Research and Innovation Month.

Florentino’s career took him from his work as an Air Force flight surgeon to deputy commander of medical services at the former National Naval Medical Center (NNMC). He helped guide the integration of NMMC and the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center to form Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC). He was also a major contributor in shifting the paradigm of care at the hospital from being primarily physician-driven, to physician, patient and family-centered. Jenkins explained that the poster competition named in his honor continues this legacy.

Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Alexis Ghersi earned first place in the case report for interns and residents category for her team’s work investigating “idiopathic papilledema in paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria with severe aplastic anemia.”

In the case report category for fellows and staff, Army Maj. (Dr.) Kiley Hunkler earned first place for her team’s research concerning live birth after uterine sparing treatment of pyometra following abdominal myomectomy.

Jenkins added that evidence-based practice includes “translating research to the bedside,” and case reports “point the way toward new paths in medicine,” while performance and quality improvement in research “boost the caliber of care and teamwork.”


The DRP held its symposium competitions on May 6. The competitions carry on the legacies of the late Navy Capt. (Dr.) Robert A. Phillips (1906-1976) and the late Army Col. (Dr.) Bailey K. Ashford (1873-1934), after whom the RAP awards and BKA awards are named.

Phillips did seminal research that led to therapies that helped save the lives of numerous cholera victims. During World War II, he also developed battlefield methods to evaluate hemoglobin levels, credited with saving many lives. He later focused his scientific attention to research on the problems of nutrition in developing areas of the world.

Ashford pioneered treatment of anemia. While stationed in Puerto Rico, his team’s research into the treatment against the hookworm led to the cure of approximately 300,000 people (about one-third the population of Puerto Rico at the time), and a 90 percent reduction in the death rate from associated anemia.

Navy Lt. (Dr.) Richard Lee earned first place in the laboratory interns and residents category, presenting his team’s work focused on trends in the strength of various quadriceps tendon graft sizes, a biomechanics study.
Lee then competed in the Navy-wide competition, earning first place in the Approved Basic Science conducted under the jurisdiction of the Clinical Investigation Departments (CID) Trainee category.

Dr. Jordyn Tumas had similar success, earning first place in the laboratory fellows and staff category for her team’s research focused on prognostic biomarker validation in high-grade serous carcinoma with ovarian tumor tissue analysis. She then presented the work during the Navy-wide competition, claiming first place in the Approved Basic Science conducted under the jurisdiction of the CID Staff category.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Scott Feeley and his team’s research concerned type V acromioclavicular joint dislocations during acute fixation and earned first place in the clinical interns and residents category. In the Navy-wide competition, Feeley and his team placed second in the Approved Clinical Research conducted under the jurisdiction of the CID Trainee category.

Army Maj. (Dr.) Christopher Stark and his team researched maternal and fetal health risks among female military aviation officers. They earned first place in the clinical fellows and staff category. Stark’s team then continued its success, placing first in the Navy-wide competition in the “Approved Clinical Research conducted under the jurisdiction of the CID Staff” category. Stark’s team also placed first in the BKA Clinical category.

In the BKA laboratory category, Army Maj. (Dr.) Susanne Jokajtys and her team’s work regarding unique molecular profiles in splenic metastasis in high-grade serous ovarian cancer, earned first place.

According to U.S. Navy Capt. (Dr.) Melissa Austin, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center director, and a pathologist, “Research is the life’s blood of the organization.” She noted that many of those doing the research are at the bedside, intimately involved with the patient and seeking ways to improve health care.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Wesley Campbell, director for Education, Training and Research (DETR) at Walter Reed, agreed. “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.”
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