Back to Top Skip to main content

Navy Medicine's engagement in global health

Navy nurse leading Chamorro student nurses in ward inspection (1948). The Navy became involved in the affairs on Guam in 1898. In 1911, Navy nurses established a training school in Guam to instruct Chamorro women in health and hygiene. (BUMED archives) Navy nurse leading Chamorro student nurses in ward inspection (1948). The Navy became involved in the affairs on Guam in 1898. In 1911, Navy nurses established a training school in Guam to instruct Chamorro women in health and hygiene. (BUMED archives)

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

The end of the Spanish American War (1898) marked the emergence of the United States as a global military power and the beginning of the Navy’s long history in global health engagement. At the start of the twentieth century, the Navy expanded into American Samoa (1900), Cuba (1903), Guam (1898), the Philippines (1905), Puerto Rico (1902), Territory of Hawaii (1898) and the Panama Canal Zone (1903); with these new ports came a host of endemic tropical illnesses with debilitating effects on military personnel. Navy doctors, hospital corpsmen and nurses were now serving on the frontlines in the war against these diseases.

The Navy’s chief weapon in this fight was new medical science; in the early twentieth century, its armory of scientific learning was the Navy Medical School.  Under the tutelage of tropical medicine pioneers like Drs. Edward Stitt, James Gatewood and others, medical students investigated tropical disease vectors, prevention techniques and clinical laboratory procedures. Navy medical students would go on to vaccinate the native populations of American Samoa and Guam against smallpox in 1903 and 1905, respectively; help develop and administer anti-typhoid vaccinations (1912) ultimately stamping out the disease in the Navy and Marine Corps; and partake in a host of international relief efforts working with civilian populations throughout multiple continents.  Across Navy Medicine, medical professionals were expanding their outreach in effort to lessen impact of disease in global populations. Navy nurses established training schools in American Samoa (1914), Guam (1911) and Haiti (1918) to instruct native women basics of health and hygiene. During the occupation of Haiti (1915-1934), Navy physicians, and hospital corpsmen alike, traveled throughout the country providing medical care to civilians and helped establish a Haitian public health office.

Cholera patients begin to recover after receiving special treatment prescribed by CAPT Robert Phillips and his medical research unit. They await transfer to the convalescent ward in the Cho Quan Hospital in the Saigon area (1964). (BUMED archives)Cholera patients begin to recover after receiving special treatment prescribed by CAPT Robert Phillips and his medical research unit. They await transfer to the convalescent ward in the Cho Quan Hospital in the Saigon area (1964). (BUMED archives)

In World War II, tropical diseases challenged U.S. forces like never before, and none more so than malaria. Malaria accounted for 68 percent (113,744) of all Navy and Marine Corps tropical disease casualties in the Pacific throughout the war. During the Guadalcanal campaign alone (7 August 1942 and 8 February 1943) over 60,000 American Soldiers, Sailors and Marines were stricken with malaria accounting for over a million man-days lost. Navy Medicine aggressively combated malarial fever by administering atabrine tablets and deploying epidemiological and malarial control units to locate and destroy Anopheles mosquitoes and their breeding grounds.

The 1940s also saw the development of the Navy Medical Research Unit (NAMRU) program. Throughout the next sixty years the NAMRU laboratories operated overseas in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Guam, Cairo (Egypt), Jakarta (Indonesia), Lima (Peru), and Taipei (Taiwan). Scientists at these labs spearheaded investigations into the causes and prevention of Avian influenza, diarrheal diseases, rheumatic fever, airborne infections, schistosomiasis, West Nile virus as well as lead pioneering efforts in containing diseases and developing vaccines.  Today NAMRU-2 (Pearl Harbor, Hawaii)NAMRU-3 (Cairo, Egypt), and NAMRU-6 (Lima, Peru) serve on the vanguard of biosurveillance and infectious disease field research and medical diplomacy.

Historically, the public face of global health care has been humanitarian assistance and disaster preparedness efforts. Throughout the last century, and into the first decades of the millennia, Navy Medicine has performed countless medical goodwill missions; and since 1965 Navy medical personnel have supplied vital services in Civil Action Programs like DENCAPS, MEDCAPs and MILPHAPs. 

At least as far back as 1973, when USS Sanctuary cruised to Columbia and Haiti providing medical aid and assistance, Navy hospital ships have served as powerful symbols of humanitarian work. More recently, USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy have become vehicles of “soft diplomacy” through their important roles in Continuing PromiseOperation Unified Response, and Pacific Partnership.

Navy Medicine can boast of many heroes in the cause of global health, but two deserve special mention. Capt. Julius Amberson, MC, USN (1895-1988) traveled across Africa, the Middle East and India in the 1940s searching for causes of epidemics and their prevention. He was the first individual to discover that Penicillin was effective against louse-borne Relapsing Fever in Egypt (1944) and later helped develop mobile chemo-therapeutic technique for the cure of cholera in India (1945). As Officer-in-Charge of the Navy Medicine Science Group’s Cairo-to-Capetown Expedition (1948), he traversed the African Continent from Port Said, Egypt, to Capetown overland investigating the geographic distribution of animal reservoir hosts of disease, vectors of disease, and clinical manifestation of tropical disease in man. He later served as Global Health Instructor at the Navy Medical School (1966-1970) and a technical advisor for a series of Navy produced global medicine training films.

Capt. Robert Phillips, MC, USN (1906-1976), served as a commanding officer of NAMRU-3 (Cairo) and later NAMRU-2 (Taipei). Throughout his career, Phillips earned a reputation for his research and treatment of tropical diseases, including the development of a vaccine against trachoma. His conception of a simpler cholera treatment was realized in the late 1960s with the development of glucose-based oral rehydration therapy, a monumental breakthrough to which many other investigators made vital contributions. Today, these simple advances have been integrated into everyday medical practice across the globe, saving millions of lives annually.

In the twenty-first century, the Navy Medical Department continues to perform a wide range of humanitarian operations, scientific research, and medical surveillance as part of a global health initiative. Throughout it all Navy Medicine continues to thrive as a global health care system fully engaged and integrated in providing high quality health care to beneficiaries in wartime and in peacetime.

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

You also may be interested in...

Network of researchers advancing warfighter readiness

Article
12/4/2019
Air Force Maj. Gen. Lee Payne, the assistant director for Combat Support at DHA, delivered the keynote address at the Global Emerging Infections Surveillance Scientific and Programmatic Advancement Meeting, GSPAM. He emphasized the importance of Force Health Protection measures and linked the GEIS mission to DHA’s combat support mission. (DoD photo)

In fiscal year 2020, GEIS awarded approximately $60 million to more than 20 DoD laboratories and U.S. government partners

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Global Health Engagement | Global Emerging Infections Surveillance

Ship-based Global Health Engagement

Article
12/4/2019
Navy Capt. Heather King, executive director of the TriService Nursing Research Program at the Uniformed Services University, details the process of ship-based global health engagement missions during the October 22, 2019, Medical Museum Science Café titled "Ship-Based Global Health Engagement Missions: Expanding Global Partnerships" at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland. (NMHM photo)

Global health engagement is an important priority for military medicine

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | National Museum of Health and Medicine

World AIDS Day puts spotlight on landmark DoD study

Article
12/2/2019
Dr. John Mascola, director of the National Institutes of Health Vaccine Research Center, discusses HIV vaccine progress at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Nov. 26, during a World AIDS Day commemoration.  (U.S. Army photo)

Vaccine study shows infection risk lowered by 31 percent, offering hope for future

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Research and Innovation | Global Health Engagement

USNS Comfort strengthens partnership with Jamaica

Article
11/7/2019
Navy Cmdr. Sara Naczas, a nurse assigned to the hospital ship USNS Comfort, helps a boy roll his yo-yo at a temporary medical treatment site in Kingston, Jamaica. Comfort is working with health and government partners in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean to provide care on the ship and at a temporary medical treatment site, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems, including those strained by an increase in cross-border migrants. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Maria G. Llanos)

This marks the Comfort’s third visit to Jamaica

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

Honduran MEDRETEs provide invaluable surgical, training opportunities

Article
10/30/2019
Air Force Maj. Julia Nuelle, chief of Orthopaedic Hand and Microvascular Surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center, poses for a photo with a pediatric patient and her mother during a Medical Readiness Exercise in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The team finished their mission by visiting their patients and delivering toys and coloring books to the hospital's pediatric ward. (Courtesy photo by Army Lt. Col. Lori Tapley)

MEDRETEs play a critical role in the training and readiness of military medical personnel

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

Comfort strengthens partnership following successful medical mission

Article
10/21/2019
Navy Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Benjamin Lazarus flies in an MH-60S Seahawk assigned to the “Dragon Whales” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, as it transports supplies from the hospital ship USNS Comfort for a temporary medical treatment site in Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Morgan K. Nall)

More than 800 medical professionals provided care for 3,677 patients

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

Comfort strengthens partnership with Grenada

Article
9/27/2019
Surgical staff transports a woman into the post-anesthesia care unit following her surgery aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort as the ship is anchored off the coast of St. George's, Grenada. Comfort is working with health and government partners in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean to provide care on the ship and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national healthcare systems, including those strained by an increase in cross-border migrants. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Morgan K. Nall)

This marks the first visit to Grenada and the seventh to the region since 2007

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

U.S. builds bonds in Papua New Guinea

Article
9/17/2019
Navy Lt. Austin Stokes, (right), and Air Force Maj. Nicole Smith (center), both dentists, talk to a patient at the Pacific Angel 19-4 health outreach site in Lae, Papua New Guinea. The health outreach site is comprised of five clinics including primary care, optometry, dental, physical therapy and pharmacy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

This is the second Pacific Angel exercise conducted in Papua New Guinea

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief

USNS Comfort completes medical mission in Peru

Article
7/22/2019
The hospital ship USNS Comfort (left) receives a fuel probe from the Peruvian ship B.A.P. Tacna during replenishment-at-sea practice. Comfort is working with health and government partners in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean to provide care on the ship and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems strained by an increase in Venezuelan migrants. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Morgan K. Nall)

This marks USNS Comforts’ seventh deployment to the region since 2007

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief

Vice President Pence tours USNS Comfort before its Latin America deployment

Article
6/20/2019
Vice President Mike Pence (right) greets Navy Lt. Gwendolyn Mann, and his wife, Karen Pence (center right), greets Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Edna Wallace during a tour of the USNS Comfort in Miami, June 18, 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Jordan R. Bair)

The vice president called the deployment a lifesaving mission

Recommended Content:

Civil Military Medicine | Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief | Global Health Engagement | Military Hospitals and Clinics

German allies visit JBSA-Fort Sam Houston on 75th anniversary of D-Day

Article
6/14/2019
Maj. Gen. Gesine Kruger, Commander for the German Bundeswehr Medical Academy (pictured center in the Flight Paramedic Training Simulator) and her delegation observed training and toured the Critical Care Flight Paramedic Course at the Health Readiness Center of Excellence. (U.S. Army photo)

The purpose of this visit was to further strengthen the bonds and interoperability programs between our allied countries or partner nations

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Health Readiness

AFRICOM holds annual Command Surgeon Conference

Article
6/3/2019
Air Force Maj. Gen. Lee E. Payne. DHA assistant director for combat support, talks to attendees of the 2019 U.S. Africa Command Command Surgeon Synchronization Conference May 28, 2019 in Stuttgart, Germany. Payne discussed upcoming changes to the military health system and what that means for patients and providers. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Christopher Hurd/Released)

The conference brought together medical professionals from across the command, and interagency and foreign partners, to enable collaboration and discuss areas of concern

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Combat Support

DoD joins national global health security effort

Article
5/13/2019
Image of the DoD Seal

The Global Health Security Strategy outlines the U.S. approach to strengthen Global Health Security

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Global Health Security Agenda

Navy hospital ship to deploy in response to humanitarian crisis in Latin America

Article
5/10/2019
The U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort is scheduled to deploy in to the Caribbean, Central America and South America to conduct humanitarian medical assistance missions in support of regional partners and in response to the regional impacts of political and economic crises in Venezuela. (U.S. Navy photo)

USNS Comfort represents our enduring promise to our partners in the Western Hemisphere

Recommended Content:

Military Hospitals and Clinics | Global Health Engagement | Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief

Field emergency room drills strengthen bonds of U.S. Navy, Swedish medics

Article
4/24/2019
Navy Cmdr. Mark Lambert (center) and Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Amos Bogs (right), work with Capt. Peter Landell (left), Swedish Armed Forces, during a multinational medical drill, Cincu Military Base, Romania, during exercise Vigorous Warrior 19. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Andrew Layton)

Vigorous Warrior is a biannual readiness event organized by the NATO Military Medicine Centre of Excellence

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 6

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing: Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.