USU President Woodson Highlights a Year of Breakthroughs and Global Leadership in Military Health and Research

In 2023, USU demonstrated remarkable achievements in military health education and research, including significant advancements in rabies cure research and global health initiatives, while celebrating key milestones and expanding international collaborations.

The Uniformed Services University Campus Facade, overlooking a pond and surrounded by trees and flowers
USU Photo

December 29, 2023 by USU President Dr. Jonathan Woodson

As we conclude 2023, I want to express deep pride for our unwavering commitment to excellence. This year, our dedicated team at the Uniformed Services University showcased remarkable achievements, shaping our success and advancing shared goals.

We successfully graduated more than 500 students from our schools/colleges. This accomplishment encompasses numerous milestones, fresh discoveries, and heightened expectations — all achievable through the committed service and support of faculty, staff, peers, and alumni.

USU President Dr. Jonathan Woodson (Photo credit: Tom Balfour, USU)
USU President Dr. Jonathan Woodson
(Photo credit: Tom Balfour, USU)
Our researchers and staff continued to advance our important scientific efforts. This summer, a number of USU faculty and staff were lauded for their research contributions as recipients of the Military Health System Research Symposium (MHSRS) Awards, including Dr. Thomas Davis, professor and vice chair of Research in the Department of Surgery, who earned the MHSRS Distinguished Service Award, and Dr. Andrew Clark, a musculoskeletal scientist in the Surgery department, who placed third in the Young Investigator Award category for his presentation titled, “Combating Volumetric Muscle Loss: An Investigation of a Two-Staged Treatment Strategy Utilizing an Acute Muscle Void Filler Followed by Delayed Definitive Treatment.”

USU scientists Dr. Brian Schaefer and Dr. Christopher Broder announced their discovery of a potential cure for the rabies infection in September, garnering global media attention. Their work has ramifications for the future of global public health, offering hope for a groundbreaking solution to the rabies infection.

Researchers from Anatomy, Physiology and Genetics, led by department chair Dr. Regina Armstrong, reported in Acta Neuropathologica, that tau pathology may be an important therapeutic target to mitigate the long-term effects of TBI on brain health and that strategies to treat patients with TBI may gain from recent advances in clinical testing of therapeutics to prevent or reduce tau pathology in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurologic disorders.

The Graduate School of Nursing was asked by Health Affairs to expand their database of military women's health research at USU to include DoD-wide research and to make it publicly accessible. 

Our Infectious Disease Clinical Research Program presented their EPICC study findings on Long COVID to the National Academies Committee on Examining the Working Definition for Long COVID. This Committee was formed at the request of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health and the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, HHS, to examine the current U.S. government working definition for Long COVID and related technical terms. The IDCRP has been invited to participate in an additional future Long COVID definitions workshop convened by the National Academies.

In November, Popular Science named USU’s Center for Biotechnology’s (4D Bio3) meniscus biofabrication on the International Space Station as one of the top 50 innovations of 2023.

USU graduate students also made waves in the area of global health, public health, and health administration and policy. Throughout the year, teams of students participated in several case challenges, competing against peer institutions. In March, USU graduate students competed in the Emory Morningside Global Health Competition, addressing real-world global health challenges. The team placed first. USU’s Master of Health Administration and Policy students participated in the DMV Case Collaboration, tackling and solving complex health administration and policy issues. Teams featuring USU students placed first and second in the event. Students from USU’s Preventive Medicine and Biometrics graduate programs participated in the 10th Annual DC Public Health Challenge at the National Academies of Science, offering them valuable firsthand experience in building critical public health plans.

Dr. Carol Romano, dean of the Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing, is presented with the AMSUS Lifetime Achievement Award by USU President Dr. Jonathan Woodson (left) and Dr. John Cho, executive director of AMSUS, the Society of Federal Health Professionals, at the 2023 AMSUS Annual Meeting in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo credit: Robbie Hammer, Defense Health Agency)
Dr. Carol Romano, dean of the Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing, is presented with the AMSUS
Lifetime Achievement Award by USU President Dr. Jonathan Woodson (left) and Dr. John Cho, executive
director of AMSUS, the Society of Federal Health Professionals, at the 2023 AMSUS Annual Meeting in National
Harbor, Maryland. (Photo credit: Robbie Hammer, Defense Health Agency)

This year the Graduate School of Nursing celebrated its 30th anniversary and the 20th anniversary of the establishment of its Ph.D. program. The GSN was again named among the country’s best by U.S. News and World Report, remaining in the top 5% of all graduate schools of nursing in the U.S. GSN ranked at number 23 of 268 in the nation for the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, and number 4 of 120 in the nation for the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist DNP program. In February, GSN Dean Dr. Carol Romano was named as the AMSUS Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, recognizing her significant contributions to the Federal health system. Our Graduate School of Nursing’s expertise was sought by Brooke Army Medical Center to provide support for addressing The Joint Commission findings in the wake of BAMC’s surgical tools sterilization issues.

The Postgraduate Dental College exhibited exceptional outcomes in meeting DoD requirements in 2023. They saw a 100% Master of Science in Oral Biology degree graduation rate. In addition, they expanded the reach of the PDC by affiliating 10 Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery residency programs, thereby ensuring support for key residency programs and educators. The PDC also expanded the scope of their Long-Term Career Outcomes Study by successfully integrating data from the Consolidated 1-Year Post Graduation Competency Survey to track developmental and leadership outcomes of PDC graduates and faculty. They also constructed a sequential dental faculty development course series, in alignment with the School of Medicine Center for Health Professions Education. Once again, the PDC hosted the Federal Services Dental Educator Workshop (FSDEW) at USU in April. This was the first in-person workshop since 2019 due to the COVID pandemic and was attended by 78 PDC faculty. The 2023 FSDEW included three full days of presentations and interactive breakouts with 24 presenters.

Our College of Allied Health Sciences completed the Joint Special Operations Medical Training Center's catalog of offerings, bringing the Civil Affairs Medical Sergeant occupational specialty into USU through the Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences in Global Community Health. CAHS also supported the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence's Combat Paramedic Program through its inaugural Committee on Accreditation of Emergency Medical Professionals accreditation visit, where they had a list of "Noted Strengths" and "No Findings".  CAHS also increased its student capacity, which is based on Service recruiting quotas, to 7,800 students per year.

2023 was also marked by change. CAPT Gerald Burke assumed the directorship of USU’s Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute from COL Mohammed Naeem. We also saw a change of leadership in the USU Brigade earlier this month. COL Albert Kinkead took over as Brigade Commander, succeeding COL Patrick Donahue, who retired after a distinguished 30-year Army career. The university’s arc of maturity over the past 50 years has also necessitated the establishment of a Chief Academic Officer/Provost position, which was publicly advertised last week.

Throughout this past year, we've also assumed a leading role across all of our strategic domains, actively contributing to shaping the University's identity as a thought leader in guiding the future of the Military Health System. MHS leaders have turned to USU’s expertise to help develop its strategic plan, and to oversee an assessment of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s operations. They have also asked for our assistance in developing the first digital health transformation strategy. Just recently, we hosted the first MHS digital health transformation summit as a successful first step towards that goal. USU is also leading the behavioral health and nursing areas for the Taking Care of People initiative, one of the Secretary of Defense’s top priorities.

The Honorable Ashish Vazirani, acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, was actively engaged with USU leadership throughout 2023, through senior leader briefings, serving as the keynote speaker for the Partnership for Military Child Health Symposium in April, attending Bushmaster, and delivering opening plenary remarks at the Digital Health Transformation Summit in December.

The University is now widely recognized for our growing relationships with Federal, non-Federal and international partners. In March, Senator Bernie Sanders visited the USU campus for a briefing and tour, looking at USU as a model for a possible national health service program.

At the Digital Health Transformation Summit in December, the Honorable Lester Martinez-Lopez, Assistant  Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, told participants that advances in digital capabilities, artificial  intelligence, machine learning, and robot-aided treatment all have to be accelerated. (Photo credit: Tom Balfour,  USU)
At the Digital Health Transformation Summit in December, the Honorable Lester Martinez-Lopez, Assistant 
Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, told participants that advances in digital capabilities, artificial 
intelligence, machine learning, and robot-aided treatment all have to be accelerated. (Photo credit: Tom Balfour, 

USU's National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health administers the National Disaster Medical System Pilot. In coordination and collaboration with federal and interagency partners, this year the NDMS Pilot executed over 40 discrete projects at the local and national level with targeted interventions to improve efficiency and throughput at Federal Coordinating Center patient reception sites.  In addition the Pilot developed a concept of operations to integrate Information Technology systems across NDMS and executed an incentives study to recruit and integrate post acute care facilities which will diversify NDMS bed types and increase patient care capacity.

USU’s Center for Global Health Engagement continued to support the Joint Staff and Combatant Commands in priority areas in 2023 by connecting USU subject matter expertise, to include the surgical ASSET course in Taiwan and the international global health security meeting in Australia for INDOPACOM, infection control training for the Kyrgyzstan medical department for CENTCOM, KSA evaluations for emergency resident training in Honduras for SOUTHCOM, and evaluation of peacekeeping hospitals in Ghana and Senegal for AFRICOM. Our students, faculty and staff presented at the Indo Pacific Military Health Exchange in Malaysia. We also hosted numerous international delegations on our campus in 2023, many seeking education and research collaborations with USU. We signed an MOU with the Japanese National Defense Medical College, establishing a framework for academic and training cooperation in military medicine.

We have expanded and strengthened alliances and partnerships. This year we signed education/research partnership agreements with Mass General Brigham, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and the University of Colorado. We have also teamed with the University of Minnesota for a successful partnership dubbed Multidomain Operations.

2023 saw an amazing effort by the University community in preparation for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education’s accreditation site visit, resulting in successful reaccreditation for the University. The School of Medicine has been actively engaged in preparation for its Liaison Committee for Medical Education accreditation site visit in 2024.

While these are but a mere snapshot of USU’s accomplishments, they are emblematic of an incredibly dedicated and devoted University team, and a high-performing organization meeting mission with the utmost distinction. These and many other accomplishments have made 2023 a very special year for us. This university is an exceptional place to work and to learn and it is because of the distinctive work that each member of the community does.

As we all head into the new year, I would ask that you please remember to keep our deployed troops, who are away from their families and who continue to serve in harm’s way this holiday season, in your thoughts. I would also ask that you keep health and safety in the forefront over the New Year’s weekend.

Thank you for serving and for all you do. My best wishes for a joyous and safe holiday season and a very Happy New Year.

Jonathan Woodson, MD, MSS, FACS