Military Medical Advancements
Military physicians have played a role in nearly every major modern medical advancement. In the early 1800s, Surgeon General Joseph Lovell studied the connections between weather patterns and disease. In 1900, Major Walter Reed headed up the Yellow Fever Commission in Cuba, discovering that mosquitoes carried the disease and saving countless lives. In 1935, Major General Harry George Armstrong, along with Dr. John Heim, built a centrifuge to test how the human body reacts to acceleration and to improve conditions for pilots.
If you read recent publications of medical research, you will find that today's military physicians are still pushing the boundaries of what is possible in medicine.
From Reed's yellow fever breakthrough to vaccines for typhoid and influenza, the Military has no peer in the prevention of infectious diseases. In 2016, the Army began a Phase 1 trial at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research to test a Zika vaccine.
While the Military has made advances in trauma care since the Revolutionary War, military physicians are always searching for better, faster ways to save lives in the field. Damage Control Resuscitation (DCR) began as an area of research at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research to improve survival rate after severe injury. A 2016 survey of trauma medical directors revealed that the protocol is also being widely used in civilian trauma centers.
For service members who have lost limbs, the Army is working on increasingly realistic prosthetic technology. Scientists at Case Western Reserve University, with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, published a 2016 study on their work to restore the sense of touch for amputees. At the University of Pittsburgh, engineers are working to improve mobility for the disabled in the Human Engineering Research Laboratories, part of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Finally, the U.S. Army has developed IDEO (Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis), which improves movement for those with lower-limb injuries.
Advances in technology mean doctors and patients can connect in new ways, and the Army’s Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) explores how new innovations can improve health care in the Military. Its researchers and engineers are working on telecommunication solutions, including a mobile app that connects patients to behavioral healthcare providers. They are also using robotics and other technology to offer remote care to casualties in combat, and life like training simulations to help prepare medics in the field.
As antibiotic-resistant infections become a growing concern for healthcare providers, researchers from the Naval Medical Research Center announced in 2016 that they have successfully treated a drug-resistant infection with bacteriophage-based therapy. Commonly called phage treatments, these naturally occurring viruses can kill bacteria, making them an effective tool in treating wound infections. Since traumatic combat injuries are often susceptible to complex infections, the hope is that this new treatment can offer an alternative to antibiotics.
Sterile instruments are at the core of any safe medical procedure, and historically, medical field teams have relied on heavy equipment that consumes a lot of energy and resources for sterilization. Researchers from the Naval Medical Research Unit are testing a new portable sterilizer that is much more lightweight and efficient for use in the field. It takes advantage of gaseous ozone in the air, which can kill several species of bacteria.
Because severe injuries can lead to wounds that never heal properly, tissue regeneration has come to the forefront of several research centers. The Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine is a joint-service effort to develop advanced treatments for wound care. The Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs also fund research at the academic level, including teams at Wake Forest School of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh.