U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit – No. 3 Celebrates 65 Years

By Capt. Richard L. Haberberger, Jr., commanding officer, Naval Medical Research Center, Silver Spring, Md.

We will be celebrating U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3’s (NAMRU-3) 65th anniversary Oct. 20 in Cairo, Egypt with a host of guest speakers from Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC), the Egyptian Ministry of Health, and the World Health Organization. 

NAMRU-3 is the oldest of the Navy’s labs outside the United States, recognized in 1942 when the U.S. Typhus Commission placed a research laboratory staffed by American scientists and technicians in Cairo. The lab was formally established in 1946. 

In the beginning researchers focused on activities in Egypt and neighboring countries, but in recent years they have expanded activities in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. 

NAMRU-3 is playing an important role in the global response to monitoring infectious disease trends among DoD personnel deployed to operational bases in Djibouti, Afghanistan, and Iraq. And the team also carries out public health activities aimed toward improving capacity building, disease surveillance and outbreak response assistance. The lab is supporting force health protection in the Horn of Africa; working closely with the Egyptian Ministry of Health and WHO; helping Djibouti with disease surveillance; responding to disease outbreak in Yemen; fighting malaria in Liberia, conducting joint research with Ghana, and studying diseases in the Republic of Georgia.

As a former NAMRU-3 department head and investigator and then executive officer, I share their pride in the significant accomplishments of the lab in its unprecedented 65-year history. From its very beginnings, NAMRU-3 has been a valued partner of the Egyptian Ministry of Health in responding to some of the most significant health threats facing the country. Whether it was controlling typhus or drastically reducing cholera mortality, NAMRU-3 proved itself equal to the crisis at hand. This continued throughout its illustrious history, be it conducting trials of vaccines for epidemic meningitis, treating schistosomiasis, or confronting Rift Valley fever, all the way to current efforts to detect and control pandemic influenza.

NAMRU-3 has been relevant, effective and a professional force for good, as I like to say we are “medical diplomats,” carrying out medical diplomacy every day. While we laud NAMRU-3 the institution, let us not forget it is the staff, following in the footsteps of their predecessors, who have kept the tradition of excellence alive. On the occasion of this 65th anniversary of NAMRU-3’s commissioning, I salute you and your selfless efforts.