Thank a Researcher

15 - 21 NOVEMBER 2021

Geneva’s Thank a Researcher Week recognizes outstanding researchers in military medicine from many research areas. Please join us in saying “Thank you” to researchers for the work they do, not only for the U.S. military but for the world.

Follow the hashtag #ThankAResearcher throughout the week to learn more about the impact that military medicine has on global healthcare.

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Featured Researchers

Every day, military medical researchers work tirelessly to address the Department of Defense's healthcare priorities by understanding and treating some of the world's most pressing healthcare issues.

LTC (Ret) Luis Alvarez, PhD, USA

2015 Researcher of the Year

Title: Founder
Site: Therapdative

Research Focus:
LTC (Dr.) Alvarez is focused on the millions of people suffering from debilitating conditions due to tissue injury. His company, Theradaptive, developed a protein called AMP2 that very potently induces bone regeneration and that binds to implants similiar to a paint. AMP2 has demonstrated regeneration of bone across gaps larger than 2 inches long. The result: regenerative medicine to heal tissues like bone and cartilage in extremities to avoid amputation. Theradaptive received federal phase II funding under the Defense Health Agency’s Small Business Innovation Initiative Research Program and has a partnership on two DoD contracts develop next-generation 3D-printed regenerative spinal fusion devices. LTC (Dr.) Alvarez developed the platform technology during active duty in the Army.

Notable 2021 Update:
The company is establishing cGMP manufacturing capabilities to produce therapeutics able to enter clinical trials in late 2022.

Andriy Batchinsky, MD

2019 Researcher of the Year

Title: Research Scientist, The Geneva Foundation
Site: AREVA Laboratory, San Antonio, Texas
LinkedIn

Research Focus:
As a Geneva Principal Investigator and Manager of the Extracorporeal Life Support (ECLS) Capability Area at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, Dr. Batchinsky is pursuing ground-breaking treatments for the management of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and the prevention of single-and multi-organ failure.

Notable 2021 Update:
Dr. Batchinsky has set out to introduce modern lung support and renal replacement technologies in a wearable format which could revolutionize intensive care units for patients suffering from coronavirus or any other severe respiratory illness requiring intubation and mechanical ventilation. His invention is a wearable vest called the Combat Resuscitation Organ Support System (CROSS) which is currently undergoing the patent process.

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LTC Vikhyat Bebarta, MD, USA

2014 Researcher of the Year

Title: Emergency Medicine Physician, UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital
Site: San Antonio Military Medical Center

Research Focus:
LTC (Dr.) Bebarta specializes in emergency medicine and medical toxicology, with a specialized focus on combat casualty care. His research addresses life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks, drug overdoses, shock or massive bleeding.

Notable 2021 Update:
LTC (Dr.) Bebarta has published more than 14 manuscripts in 2021 focused on emergency medicine and toxicology. In the February 2021 edition of Military Medicine, he co-authored the “Top 10 Research Priorities for U.S. Military En Route Combat Casualty Care.” Within the Military Health System, the process of transporting patients from an initial point of injury and throughout the entire continuum of care is called “en route care.” A Committee on En Route Combat Casualty Care was established in 2016 as part of the DoD Joint Trauma System to create practice guidelines, recommend training standards, and identify research priorities within the military en route care system.

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Cristobal Berry-Caban, PhD

Title: Geneva Principal Investigator
Site: Womack Army Medical Center

Research Focus:
Dr. Cristóbal Berry-Cabán has had over 25 years of experience conducting clinical research in alcohol and substance abuse studies. Dr. Berry-Cabán is a lead investigator of a multi-phase, $2.7 million study called ProHealth that began in 2017, to create a program that addresses sexual assault and high-risk alcohol use on military installations. The research is a collaboration between Fort Bragg’s Womack Army Medical Center, Brown University, Rhode Island Hospital, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Dr. Berry-Caban has served as a Principal Investigator with The Geneva Foundation since 2015.

Notable 2021 Update:
As his ProHealth research project nears its end, Dr. Berry-Caban has begun work for a new study entitled, “Preventing Sexual Violence Toward Male Victims through Targeting Hazing Behavior.”

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Kenneth Cameron, PhD, MPH, ATC

Title: Director, Orthopedic Research, Keller Army Hospital, U.S. Military Academy at West Point
Site: MIRROR
LinkedIn

Research Focus:
Dr. Cameron has has built a network of research collaborations across the county and around the world focused on innovative injury prevention strategies for musculoskeletal injury and disease epidemiology, and biomarkers associated with post-traumatic osteoarthritis. Some of his collaborators include the University of Connecticut, the University of Washington, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the American Genome Center, University of Delaware, and PhysiMax from Israel. Dr. Cameron has been instrumental in the development of research that Geneva manages at West Point. Through his passion for research, collaborations, and mentorship, he has advanced the development of several new investigators.

Notable 2021 Update:
In February 2021, Dr. Cameron and his colleagues from the NCAA-DoD CARE Consortium published research on preliminary evidence indicating that genetic factors associated with having a family history of neurodegenerative disease may predispose an individual to persistent symptoms and poorer cognitive performance after a concussion.

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LTC Christopher Colombo, MD, FACP, FCCP, USA

Title: Director of Virtual Health and Telecritical Care
Site: Madigan Army Medical Center

Research Focus:
Dr. Colombo is leading the expansion of the Joint Telecritical Care Network in the DoD, while remaining active on the teaching service in Madigan’s Intensive Care Unit. He supports studies collaborating with several large consortiums and serves as PI of four Geneva awards. Dr. Colombo has been a researcher with Geneva since 2018, leading projects including the development of a National Emergency Telecritical Care Network (NETCCN), Prolonged Field Care (PFC) simulations, and telementorship training. He is a persistent champion of telemedicine which led to the establishment of the Department of Virtual Critical Care at Madigan, where previously no such department existed. This telemedicine infrastructure positioned Dr. Colombo to rapidly respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic, becoming one of the initial awardees leading the deployment of NETCNN, which supports the extension of high-quality intensive care to places that lack adequate critical care resources.

Notable 2021 Update:
Because of his talent for mentoring residents and junior faculty on research projects, several of his mentees have had abstracts accepted to regional, national, and international meetings or have published manuscripts. He was recently awarded the BG George J. Brown Mentor’s Cube Award at Madigan Research Days in honor of his outstanding mentorship.

John M. Dye, Jr, PhD

2016 Researcher of the Year

Title: Deputy Director, Foundational Sciences, U.S. Army
Principal Investigator, Research Scientist
Site: U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID)
LinkedIn

Research Focus:
Dr. Dye oversees the execution of research programs in medical countermeasures against viral biological warfare agents in a high-hazard, multi-suite, bio-containment laboratory that operates at Biosafety Levels 2, 3, and 4. His research focuses on filovirus vaccines and therapeutics, with the ultimate aim to counteract the Ebola virus and other high-risk pathogens.

Notable 2021 Update:
Dr. Dye received the Army Civilian Service Achievement Medal for, among other things, taking on critical additional duties in the past year to lead the Army’s COVID-19 research. Dye’s efforts ensured USAMRIID was able to return to full operating capacity while productively supporting the national pandemic response.

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Vincent Ho, MD

2017 Researcher of the Year

Title: Professor, Chair of the Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, Uniformed Services University
Chief of Radiology Services, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
Site: USU-4DBio3 Center for Biotechnology
LinkedIn

Research Focus:
Dr. Ho’s research focuses on non-invasive methods for vascular imaging, tissue characterization, functional assessment, image-guided therapy/drug delivery, and bioprinting. Dr. Ho currently leads the USU-4D Bio3 Center for Biotechnology to ensure that our warfighters are equipped and supported with the latest advancements in biotechnology.

Notable 2021 Update:
The USU-4DBio3 On-Demand Blood program was established to provide military service members access to quality, non-contaminated, fresh blood supplies anywhere in the world. The unique capabilities of the program will enable medical professionals the ability to generate fresh red blood cells onsite and perform transfusions in austere environments.

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COL (Ret) Arthur "Don" Johnson, NC, PHD

Arthur Johnson

Title: Director of Research
Site: U.S. Army Graduate Nursing Program in Anesthesia Nursing

Research Focus:
COL (Ret) Dr. Johnson has been involved in research for over thirty-six years, primarily in educational and animal (physiological/ pharmacological) research and is a long-time Geneva nurse researcher. His first study with Geneva was an AIDS prevention study, which aimed to determine if it was possible to predict those individuals who were high risk. The success of this study led to subsequent studies. Between 2007 and 2021, he has been the PI, AI or site PI on at least twelve Tri-Service Nursing Research Program awards, always partnering with The Geneva Foundation. Today, his studies focus on military nursing practices and the administration of life-saving interventions that improve patient outcomes by saving lives of patients in cardiac arrest. One of his greatest accomplishments during his tenure is helping to make USAGPAN the top anesthesia program in the country.

Notable Update:
COL (Ret) Dr. Johnson was honored with the very first Annual Tri-Service Nursing Research Program (TSNRP) Mentorship Award in 2020. The award recognizes and honors the efforts of nurse scientist mentors within the nursing research community.

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MAJ (Ret) Mary McCarthy, PhD, RN, CNSC, USA

2018 Researcher of the Year

Title: Senior Nurse Scientist, U.S. Army
Site: Madigan Army Medical Center
LinkedIn

Research Focus:

MAJ (Ret) McCarthy, PhD, is focused on the vital role that nutrition plays in the overall health of service members. She has over 15 years of clinical nursing experience in medical-surgical, emergency, and critical care, and over 25 years of funded research in nutrition, bone health, and nursing quality outcomes with a bench-to-bedside focus. Her skills and expertise as a clinical nurse, research nurse, and nurse scientist, have enabled her to contribute significantly to the development and implementation of impactful and translational nursing research efforts. She is currently leading a clinical trial funded by the Tri-Service Nursing Research Program to evaluate vitamin D genomics and warfighter nutritional resilence.

Notable 2021 Update:
Under the Precision Nutrition Study, Dr. McCarthy expanded her research as a result of the pandemic to examine the effects of vitamin D on COVID-19. Her research is in the data analysis phase.

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LTC Pedro Oblea, PhD, RN, USA

Title: Chief, Center for Nursing Science and Clinical Inquiry (CNSCI), U.S. Army
Site: Tripler Army Medical Center
LinkedIn

Research Focus:
An active-duty military officer for nearly 18 years, Dr. Oblea was deployed to Iraq twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, as an ICU Nurse and as a Brigade Nurse. His research has focused on the effects of short-term separation on the behavioral health of military wives and a groundbreaking investigation into the experiences and challenges impacting the health and readiness of LGBTQ military service members.

Notable 2021 Update:
Dr. Oblea is embarking on a new study funded by a grant from the TriService Nursing Research Program (TSNRP) to study N95-respirators. His interest in the project dates to his time at Fort Bragg when an officer in charge of a deployed unit told him that military nurses were experiencing facial skin breakdown caused by the constant mask requirements.

COL Jason F. Okulicz, MD, USAF

Title: Chief, Infectious Disease Service, San Antonio Medical Center
Professor of Medicine, Uniformed Services University
Director, U.S. Air Force HIV Medical Evaluation Unit
Site: Brooke Army Medical Center

Research Focus:
COL (Dr.) Okulicz is an infectious diseases physician and the site principal investigator of Operation Warp Speed,a multi-agency initiative with a central goal – to develop, produce, and distribute 300 million doses of a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine by January 2021. He also serves an Air Force infectious diseases consultant and leads the U.S. Air Force HIV Medical Evaluation Unit.

Notable 2021 Update:
COL (Dr.) Okulicz has grown a program of COVID-19 research to new levels. His research consists of multiple research studies at three military treatment facilities and collectively has enrolled over 1,000 research participants. Although this high-profile research initiative has been conducted at an unprecedented warp speed pace, COL (Dr.) Okulicz has been successful because he is passionate about research, relentless, undaunted by challenges, a visionary, and a ‘service leader’ who genuinely cares about his research team.

COL (Ret) Paul F. Pasquina, MD, USA

Title: Professor and Chair, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Uniformed Services University
Site: Musculoskeletal Injury Rehabilitation Research for Operational Readiness, NCAA-DoD CARE Consortium

Research Focus:
COL (Dr.) Pasquina’s research efforts are focused on exploring new technologies to enhance the recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration of combat casualties, particularly those with traumatic brain injury and extremity trauma.

Notable 2021 Update:
COL (Dr.) Pasquina has published more than 13 publications so far in 2021. Since the start of the pandemic, the Department of Rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center has cared for over 85% of military beneficiaries admitted to the hospital with COVID-19. The rehabilitation team used a holistic approach to develop a novel program to help facilitate the safe discharge and successful recovery and social reintegration for all patients with COVID-19. The overall acceptance and satisfaction of this program by the patients and staff has been excellent, with early evidence to suggest improved quality of life and possible mitigation of long-term complications.

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Patrica S. Steeg, PhD

Title: Deputy Chief and Senior Investigator, Women Malignancies Branch
Site: National Cancer Institute
LinkedIn

Research Focus:
Dr. Steeg is a cancer researcher working in the field of breast cancer metastasis, and was the first person to discover the NME1 gene, which spreads breast cancer to other parts of the body.

When the NME1 gene is introduced in highly metastatic breast cancer, it decreased the potential for the cancer to spread anywhere from 50 to 90 percent. The NME1 gene reduces the likelihood of cancer spreading by producing a protein referred to as NME1 protein. This means that cancerous cells will lack this protein, so Steeg and her team synthesized a drug called nitidine analog that will locate cancerous cells and destroy them based on the amount of proteins the cell contains. This drug is less cancerous than chemotherapy, and has shown promise in working against melanoma, colon cancer, and small-cell lung cancer.

Notable 2021 Update:
Dr. Steeg published a review in the July issue of Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology outlining the role of the blood-tumour barrier in cancer biology and therapy. With new brain-penetrant molecularly targeted inhibitors of oncoproteins demonstrating efficacy in subgroups of patients with brain metastasis, she also addresses how this knowledge can be translated into clinical advances for patients with cancer.

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COL Dawn Torres, MD, USA

Title: Program Director NCC Gastroenterology Fellowship
Site: Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Research Focus:
COL (Dr.) has been a provider at WRNMMC since 2010, board-certified in Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology (GI) and Transplant Hepatology. COL (Dr.) Torres has been a Geneva investigator at WRNMMC for the past 7 years. She has conducted 25 industry-sponsored clinical trials focused on NASH, PBC and other hepatic diseases. Currently, she has 8 active studies and 5 more in startup for a total of 13 industry-sponsored trials. She is a leader in her field and a respected provider and researcher. One of COL (Dr.) Torres’ greatest strengths is her ability to teach and inspire others. In her role, she involves the GI fellows as sub-investigators on research projects. Under her mentorship, many of them have gone on to be dedicated researchers themselves.

Notable 2021 Update:
In February 2021, COL (Dr.) Torres co-authored a publication defining Wilson’s Disease, a rare liver disease characterized by copper accumulation, and iron overload. In her research, she discusses therapeutic implications for patients suffering from this rare disease and knowing whether or not the patient has an iron overload as it impacts immediate and long-term therapy.