USAMMDA's TIRM PMO Shines at 2016 Letterman Awards
Capping off a night of resounding achievements, the awardees for the 9th annual Major Jonathan Letterman Medical Excellence Award were recognized during a ceremony held at Strong Mansion, Dickerson, Maryland, Oct. 6. Established by the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, the award celebrates the progressive work that earned Letterman the title of "Father of Battlefield Medicine." Earning the honor of organizational recipient for 2016 was the Tissue Injury and Regenerative Medicine Program Management Office from the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, a subordinate command of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Fort Detrick, Maryland.
Led by project manager Kristy Pottol, the TIRM PMO was established by the Department of Defense in 2006 to help find successful solutions to the most challenging combat injuries. Research from TIRM PMO projects is used to find effective treatments for patients suffering from severe wounds that include blast disfigurement and catastrophic burns. Currently, the most prominent item in the TIRM PMO's portfolio may be its emerging work in the field of Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation, or VCA, which is the complex reconstruction of human tissue, such as hands and ears, damaged by trauma or infection. As the single largest funder in the field of VCA, the TIRM PMO works closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and all prominent thought-leaders in the field of VCA to seek safe and effective treatments for patients.
When asked about her role as TIRM PMO project manager, Pottol instead praised her team members' for their dedication, as she said, "Every day, the staff welcomes the morning with a question, 'How can I drive success for the VCA program so that the benefits can positively impact those DOD Service Members in need?' I am so proud the TIRM team is being recognized for their unrelenting drive and commitment to do whatever it takes to provide solutions for Service Members with catastrophic injuries."
Col. William E. Geesey, USAMMDA commander and nominator for the TIRM PMO team, introduced the organizational award presentation, highlighting the brilliant work of the men and women who were honored this evening.
"The TIRM PMO is a group of passionate and dedicated Army and Air Force Service Members, government civilians, and support contractors focused on the singular mission to make wounded Service Members whole by restoring form, function and appearance,'" said Geesey. "Their outstanding work helps find new and effective methods to treat and sustain severely disfigured Service Members and civilians who would otherwise hold very little hope of leading a normal life.
"The TIRM PMO has made incredible treatments possible, such as a successful face transplant for a civilian injured in a high-voltage electrical accident, and a double-arm transplant for a wounded Service Member," he continued. "The TIRM PMO is on the leading edge of burn treatment and other innovative solutions for the most challenging combat wounds, and its focus areas hold great promise for those, both military and civilian, who have suffered unimaginable injuries."
Accepting the award on behalf of the TIRM PMO group was U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Melinda Eaton, TIRM PMO deputy project manager. Eaton appeared very humbled as she delivered her speech, which was well received by those in attendance.
"This is a team award," said Eaton, "and although it was made to our office, this recognition extends to all of those who have supported our work and have helped us to accomplish our mission of restoring wounded warriors with their form, function and appearance."
Upon acknowledging the many government and other partnerships that have contributed to the success of the TIRM PMO's research, Eaton said, "Finally, and most importantly, we would like to thank our patients, families and care providers who face the challenges of these most severe injuries with courage, dignity and determination. You never quit, and this drives us to be better and to do better every day.
"The TIRM PMO is a team of diverse backgrounds, whose talents all come together to one end: to keep the faith with our Servicemen and -women that we will do whatever it takes to ensure that they can live with purpose and independence â€“ and we thank you for this honor."
Sharing the evening's honors as the recipient of the Letterman individual award was Col. (Dr.) John Bradley Holcomb, U.S. Army retired, whose work in preventing blood-loss on the battlefield has been heralded as opening the door to a new era of wound management in combat casualty care.
"Col. Holcomb has led national and international research and policy efforts to improve the care of trauma casualties," said David Price, NMCWM executive director. "He redesigned the evacuation system for wounded Soldiers, he advocated for the Joint Theater Trauma Registry to help standardize medical care and identify best practices, and he continued to work on new treatments to improve care â€“ just like Major Jonathan Letterman did during the Civil War. Col. Holcomb is indeed a 'Living Letterman.'"
The highly successful work of dedicated professionals such as Holcomb and the TIRM PMO team helps to secure the readiness of our military medical organizations in reacting quickly to the immediate needs of Warfighters in the field and those who return home, which in turn bolsters the strength of the nation and its citizens.