29 December 2021

2021 Researchers to Watch in Review

The curiosity, creativity, and drive of military medical researchers offer promise that we can overcome some of the biggest healthcare issues facing our military service members, veterans, and their families. These leaders find reward in their pursuit of the myriad of challenges affecting healthcare today. Geneva calls these military medical leaders our Researchers to Watch.

Here are 20 researchers we highlighted in 2021 who share a willingness to question existing knowledge and forge new paths in military medicine.


Cristóbal S. Berry-Cabán, PhD

Geneva Senior Scientist Dr. Cristóbal Berry-Cabán is studying an innovative approach at Womack Army Medical Center with the goal of preventing sexual aggression among young men in the military. Read more

Kathleen Cashman, PhD

Dr. Kathleen Cashman is a Geneva principal investigator at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. In collaboration with Inovio Pharmaceuticals, she is working to translate a DNA-based vaccine candidate into, eventually, an FDA-approved vaccine to prevent lethal Lassa fever infection. Read more

LTC Jonathan F. Dickens, MD, USA

LTC (Dr.) Jon Dickens is combining next-generation regenerative medicine techniques in tissue engineering and rehabilitative medicine to improve the long-term health of our warfighters. His research on tissue-engineered meniscal bioprinted implants will inform alternative solutions for the treatment of meniscal injury. Read more

COL Jennifer M. Gurney, MD, USA

COL (Dr.) Gurney is a trauma surgeon and Chief of the Defense Committees on Trauma at the Joint Trauma System. Her research team has demonstrated the importance of “when to transfuse,” and now the team aims to determine the importance of “what to transfuse” to inform strategies for transfusion of blood products to stop blood loss. Read more

COL (Ret.) Arthur “Don” Johnson, NC, PhD, USAF

Dr. Don Johnson was honored with the very first Annual Tri-Service Nursing Research Program Mentorship Award honoring his efforts as a nurse scientist mentor within the nursing research community. He plays an integral role in displaying the importance of research as the foundation for evidence-based practice. Read more

Nicholas Ieronimakis, PhD

Dr. Nicholas Ieronimakis, a clinical research scientist at Madigan Army Medical Center, was awarded an investigational grant in reproductive medicine and maternal health from Ferring Pharmaceuticals to evaluate human placenta response to SARS-CoV-2 exposure. Read more

Yoann Stephane Le Breton, PhD

Dr. Yoann Le Breton, research scientist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, was awarded a grant for research focused on a platform for genome mining of multidrug-resistant pathogens to develop therapeutic phages using synthetic biology. Read more

Rosa Nguyen, MD, PhD

Dr. Rosa Nguyen is a pediatric oncologist, translational researcher, and clinical scientist who first became interested neuroblastoma research during her clinical training while caring for children afflicted with this debilitating cancer. She is working towards understanding the immune destruction of neuroblasts through immunotherapy. Read more

Col. Jason F. Okulicz, MD, USAF

Col (Dr.) Jason Okulicz is an infectious diseases consultant to the Air Force Surgeon General who has enrolled 1,300+ patient participants in his work with Geneva to fight COVID-19. In June 2021, Dr. Okulicz received IRB approval to enroll patients in an adaptive treatment trial for outpatients with COVID-19. This study allows for the rapid evaluation of therapies to prevent disease progression and to reduce the serious complications of COVID-19 and transmission. Read more

Teryn R. Roberts, PhD

Dr. Teryn Roberts is a co-principal investigator for Geneva at the Autonomous Reanimation and Evacuation Program (AREVA) at Brooks City-Base. Dr. Robert’s current research focus with AREVA includes the development and assessment of novel biocompatible materials for ECLS, as well as the effects of ECLS on coagulopathy and endothelial damage following trauma. Read more

MAJ (Ret) Dan Rhon, DPT, DSC, USA

Dr. Dan Rhon is the Director of the Primary Care Research Center at the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center and is leading several translational research projects around pain management. His SMART Stepped Care Management Project supports an innovative Sequential Multiple Randomization Trial (SMART) specifically designed to address the Stepped Care treatment process. Read more

Venkatasivasai Sujith Sajja, PhD

Dr. Sujith Sajja, principal investigator at the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience Research at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, has spent over the last decade investigating blast effects using state-of-the-art MRI technologies, pre-clinical models, and translational studies to understand and prevent risk against warfighters following blast trauma. Read more

Amanda Staudt, PhD, MPH

Geneva Epidemiologist Dr. Amanda Staudt is working at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research to conduct the first study of its kind to provide a representation of the actual number of years of healthy life lost to the ocular injury resulting from combat. Read more

LTC Christopher Stucky, PhD, RN, CNOR, CSSM, NEA-BC, USA

LTC Christopher Stucky is a Nurse Scientist and Deputy Chief of Research at the Center for Nursing Science and Clinical Inquiry at Womack Army Medical Center. His long-term goal is to develop a comprehensive research program to identify perioperative communication weaknesses, with the aim of increasing healthcare quality and safety. Read more

Allison Symsack, PT, DPT

Geneva Senior Research Physical Therapist Dr. Allison Symsack is working on the Mobile Device Outcomes-based Rehabilitation Program, a DoD/VA Joint Incentive Fund, to determine if wearable sensor technology improves strength, mobility, and gait quality in service members and veterans with lower limb amputation. Read more

Britton Trabert, PhD, MS

Dr.  Britton Trabert is a reproductive and cancer epidemiologist. Under a research study titled Making the CASE: Chemopreventive use of Aspirin for Ovarian Cancer, her goal is to inform potential public health recommendations regarding aspirin as a chemopreventive agent for ovarian cancer. Read more


MAJ (Dr.) Jon Umlauf is a physical therapist at Brooke Army Medical Center who is using cutting-edge, simulation-based treatments to return injured military service members to duty. He is advancing the clinical training of orthopedic physical therapists, applying virtual technologies to improve outcomes of rehabilitative care, and investigating diagnostic ultrasound to improve care for service members. Read more

LTC Christopher VanFosson, PhD, MHA, RN, NEA-BC, USA

LTC (Dr.) Christopher VanFosson’s research goal is to prepare clinicians for their deployed mission on the future battlefield and to minimize preventable combat deaths. His findings will inform military decision-makers as they shape patient care for the future battlefield. Read more

LCDR J. Kent Werner, MD, PhD, USN

LCDR (Dr.) Kent Werner proposed the modification of a technology called functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy, a non-invasive, portable optical brain monitoring technique to track fluid movements during sleep. He aims to use this technology to deliver clinical solutions to address health-related restorative sleep issues for the military and civilian populations. Read more

Ruoting Yang, PhD

Dr. Ruoting Yang first authored a manuscript published in Molecular Psychiatry on biotypes for post-traumatic stress disorder, the first of their kind of any psychological disorder. He is a computational biologist, specializing in artificial intelligence, software, and biomarker research. Read more

Researchers to Watch