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Premier scientific symposium showcases medical research and development

Dr. Terry Adirim, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Health Services Policy and Oversight, speaks at a plenary session at the 2018 Military Health System Research Symposium, Aug. 20, at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, Florida. The theme of this year’s meeting is “Medical Innovation for Warfighter Readiness: The Future Starts Now.” (MHSRS photo) Dr. Terry Adirim, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Health Services Policy and Oversight, speaks at a plenary session at the 2018 Military Health System Research Symposium, Aug. 20, at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, Florida. The theme of this year’s meeting is “Medical Innovation for Warfighter Readiness: The Future Starts Now.” (MHS photo)

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Sharing knowledge gained from military-unique medical research and development is the focus of the annual Military Health System Research Symposium, Aug. 20-23 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, Florida. The theme of this year’s meeting is “Medical Innovation for Warfighter Readiness: The Future Starts Now.”

“MHSRS is the premier showcase for our research community,” said Dr. Terry Rauch, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for Health Readiness Policy and Oversight, and one of the speakers during the plenary session.

“Attendees will be able to meet with colleagues from around the world in industry, academia, and across governments while learning about all of the new and exciting advancements in military medical research," Rauch said.

Dr. Kelley Brix, branch chief of interagency research coordination at the DHA, moderated the plenary session. She noted a record number – more than 3,000 – are attending this year’s symposium, including military providers with deployment experience, research and academic scientists, and industry and international partners.

“It’s exciting to see how this conference continues to grow each year,” said Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, director of the Defense Health Agency. The other plenary speakers were Dr. Terry Adirim, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Health Services Policy and Oversight; and Army Maj. Gen. Barbara Holcomb, commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick, Maryland, and chief of the Army Nurse Corps.

The plenary speakers emphasized that along with gaining knowledge during the symposium, attendees should seek to create research partnerships to support Defense Secretary James Mattis’ call to build and maintain a more lethal fighting force. The symposium “is the one time all who are involved in this important work can be at the same place at the same time,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb noted that Army researchers developed a blood test to evaluate mild traumatic brain injury, the first of its kind to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. She said researchers should strive to “fail fast” so their attention and focus can pivot to scientific ideas that will prove to have more value.

“There’s a strong mandate for speed to leverage science into technology and outpace our rivals,” Rauch said, adding that the DoD’s working relationship with FDA is perhaps stronger today than it’s ever been in his 40-year career.

Other R&D priorities, Rauch said, include artificial intelligence, disease prevention, and efficient and effective health care for veterans.

Adirim noted that in July, the FDA announced authorization for emergency use of freeze-dried plasma. “This is science in action saving lives on the battlefield,” Adirim said. She added that by September 2022, the DHA will stand up two sub agencies: one for R&D, and the other for public health.

Topics that will be covered during the four-day MHSRS include combat casualty care, military operational medicine, clinical and rehabilitative medicine, medical simulation and information sciences, military infectious diseases, surgical care, telehealth, pain management, and psychological health and resilience.

MHSRS is the only military or civilian meeting that focuses specifically on the unique medical needs of warfighters, providing a collaborative setting for the exchange of information. Additional information about MHSRS is available here.

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