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October SG's Column
Navy Surgeon General,
Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson, Jr.

Navy Medicine’s Advancements in Research and Development

Surgeon General's Corner: By Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson, Jr., Navy Surgeon General

Navy Medicine would not be able to accomplish its mission without a vibrant Research and Development (R&D) community. The work that our researchers do is having a direct impact on the treatment we are able to provide, from the battlefield to the bedside. Many Wounded Warriors are walking, talking, and leading productive lives today because of our research and medical advancements. Our R&D programs are truly force multipliers to Navy Medicine’s success and enable us to remain agile in the world-class healthcare we provide to our service members and beneficiaries. 

This month I’d like to focus on some of the recent advancements made in our Research and Development (R&D) community. Today, we have 10 Medical Research Laboratories (7 CONUS, 3 OCONUS) focusing on programs as wide ranging as population based medicine and epidemiology, aviation, submarine, directed energy, toxicology, emerging infectious disease evaluations, combat casualty care, diving medicine and many more.    

The Navy and Marine Corps team have unique operational needs including expeditionary medicine, undersea medicine, and hypobaric and hyperbaric issues.  Due to the nature of wounds we are seeing from Iraq and Afghanistan, our focus remains on five priority areas to include: 1) Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and psychological health treatment and support for both operational forces and home-based families; 2) Medical systems support for maritime and expeditionary operations; 3) Wound management throughout the continuum of care; 4) Hearing restoration and protection for maritime, surface and air support personnel; and 5) Undersea medicine, diving, and submarine.  

This focused research has yielded tremendous results in combat casualty care including mild to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) and PTSD, wound management, wound repair and reconstruction, as well as extremity and internal hemorrhage control and phantom limb pain in amputees. The most recent and innovative example of research and treatment initiatives is the new National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NiCOE) which exemplifies “the convergence of art and science” for traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorders. This state-of-the-art facility is intended to serve as the vanguard for how to effectively research, diagnose, and treat traumatic brain injuries for wounded warriors.

Our medical research community has also been a tremendous asset in support of the integration of women in submarines. Navy Medicine has been looking out for the health and well being of male Sailors working in the Navy nuclear power field for more than 50 years, and for 15 years for our females Sailors since they joined the surface nuclear fleet. After a rigorous and comprehensive review, we uncovered no expected health effects of any kind and concurred with the decision for unrestricted assignment of women to submarines. We will continue to study this issue to ensure the health and well being of the Navy's total force and beneficiaries.   

We need to make sure that we include our basic sciences in everything that we do. It’s not about grant money. It’s because the innovation and the creativity that will propel us to go to the next level, the next place we need to go, comes from that energetic and creative thinking in our research and development labs and schools. Science and technology, research and development are the bases from which most of our innovations come. We anticipate further advancements in all areas of medicine in the years to come but only if we maintain a sharp focus on our research and development priorities.   

Please continue to focus on the current needs of our Sailors, Marines, and their families. It is my honor to represent you as your Surgeon General. Thank you for everything you do, but most of all thank you for your service.