By Capt. Rita G. Simmons, MSC, commanding officer, Naval Medical Research Unit-San Antonio
Three months into the New Year and I am fast approaching the finish line of my term as Commanding Officer for the Naval Medical Research Unit -San Antonio (NAMRU-SA). It is a time of reflection on the achievements of the command and a heralding of what’s to come under new leadership.
Located in South Texas on the San Antonio, Military Joint Base complex, the Naval Medical Research Unit San Antonio is one of eight subordinate research commands in the global network of laboratories operating under the Naval Medical Research Center, Silver Spring, Maryland. The mission of this biomedical research lab is to improve medical outcomes and capabilities in combat casualty care and craniofacial health and restorative medicine.
During my tenure our scientific teams have been prolific in the delivery of innovative products to sponsors and clients with substantial increases in products per project and other types of tangible return on investment. Highlights of the past two years include awards for projects to improve craniofacial wound management and infection control. With an interdisciplinary team of biomedical engineers, cell biologist, immunologist, mechanical engineers, biomaterials experts, and dentist, our researchers developed a novel approach to creating biocompatible nanofibers to create an antimicrobial wound dressing.
NAMRU-SA scientists contributed to the fight against drug-resistant “superbugs” with unique projects resulting in patents filed for a laser-induced photo-acoustic method to destroy bacteria and a portable and rechargeable field-ready ozone sterilizer. The lab’s shock and resuscitation research is advancing our understanding of the molecular aspects of the immune response to shock and the long-term effects in warfighters. These investigations will aid us in understanding why certain therapies work and others don’t.
NAMRU-SA, as the BUMED lead agent for mercury abatement, developed several novel approaches to ensure that ninety-nine percent of mercury associated with medical or dental treatments is captured before entering any waste water stream. The redesigned composite amalgam filter will be an inexpensive, effective way to significantly reduce mercury burden into the public waterways.
As I set the stage for my departure, my eyes turn to 2015 and the strategic collaboration and interdisciplinary culture that will continue to shape how we work-and how we work together. Creating a collaborative environment will remain at the forefront of my priorities and I trust it will be a hallmark of this laboratory for years to come.
As I depart for my new position as Commanding Officer of the Naval Health Research Center, San Diego, I am honored to have served with an exceptionally brilliant and highly motivated staff that embraces a culture of collaboration, and who are driven to investigate and find research solutions to the critical needs of the warfighters and the clinicians who treat them.