WHAT WE DO
We manage a targeted portfolio of high-impact military health research. Through our interdisciplinary centers and departmentally-based research programs, the School of Medicine spans the range of scientific endeavor from molecular biology to global health. We are committed to solving the most pressing health challenges facing the U.S. Department of Defense and the Military Health System while educating world class biomedical researchers and clinician scientists.
Although much of the research we do is associated with our interdisciplinary Centers, there are also many independent investigators forwarding science in areas of interest to the warfighter in the departments. Our faculty study a broad range of topics - from evaluating patients suspected of having malignant hyperthermia syndrome to using autologous fibroblast therapy to promote healing in amputees. Labs are using virtual reality and smartphones to improve the diagnosis and treatment of TBI and PTSD, studying several military-relevant pathogens, exploring neuromodulation with technologies like transcranial magnetic stimulation to treat chronic pain, working on a vaccine against RSV, and so much more.
MD CAPSTONE RESEARCH
The primary research program for medical students occurs within the School of Medicine Capstone Project - a planned elective which occurs mainly in the post-clerkship period where students are encouraged to develop their own areas of inquiry, within a wide variety of opportunities, during the 12 elective blocks available in that time period. Students are encouraged to dedicate up to three months working on a longitudinal project of their choosing, under the guidance of a faculty mentor. This “Capstone Experience” provides an opportunity to concentrate in an area of their interest. The goal is to acquire advanced knowledge and skills, and be encouraged to practice application at a high level of expertise, while demonstrating self-directed learning through individualized planning and independent motivation. Currently this is an optional experience, though over half of the recent SOM students embrace these opportunities.
Ongoing and planned projects include four broad areas of scholarship:
LABORATORY RESEARCH – This may include but not be limited to cell and molecular biology research on disease pathogenesis and mechanisms of injury and repair, modern diagnostic assay development, physiologic modeling, etc. which may take place at Uniformed Services University, our affiliated DoD research labs, the NIH, or any other institution which has a relationship with our school.
CLINICAL RESEARCH – Much of this work is done through our several research centers, including work ranging from literature reviews and meta-analysis, case series, database studies, to more hands-on involvement in long term cohort studies and prospective clinical trials.
MILITARY AND GLOBAL HEALTH PROJECTS – These projects may be part of our military leadership training program, or our highly relevant DoD trauma and emergency medicine research. Recent projects have included evaluation of field training, teaching lay personnel to use tourniquets, study of the global impact of HIV through rotations with the PEPFAR program, as well as rotations to study malaria and other critical infectious diseases at the DoD’s network of overseas laboratories. Students can also pursue electives through cultural exchange programs with our partners in Israel, India, Mexico, and the Philippines.
EDUCATION RESEARCH – We have dedicated educators in every department who work with students to evolve and improve our own curriculum, study professionalism and resilience, develop modern anatomic teaching resources, and acquire and apply education tools and leadership skills for their future careers.
Students perform their work using the student research planning software for the University, conforming to any specific regulatory requirements, such as human subject protection (IRB) reviews, and travel to national meetings to represent their results. Students present their results at either the poster session affiliated with the fall Founder’s Day, or the spring Research Days Poster Symposium, in addition to participating in many of our specialty societies’ academic meetings across the United States.
GRADUATE STUDENT RESEARCH
Based on the chosen program, students have the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research that spans the numerous possibilities: basic science, clinical research, global health, etc. Particular focus areas relevant to military medicine include traumatic brain injury, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, emerging infectious and neglected tropical diseases, combat casualty care, substance abuse, genomics and precision medicine. Students are encouraged to attend and present at national and international scientific conferences in their field of study, and publish their work in scientific journals whenever possible. Our students are regularly recognized with local and national awards for their scholarship and leadership.
Some graduate students partner with military or civilian public health organizations to complete a practicum as part of their degree program. Current doctoral students are employed at the Murtha Cancer Center, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, National Center for Health Statistics, Army Public Health Center, Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch and the USUHS Infectious Disease Clinical Research Program.
We not only serve as the leadership academy for military health; we are a major center for basic and applied research to address current and future threats to the health of the force and our nation. For this reason, USU is a complex research, education, and service enterprise. Much of our scientific prowess is based in our interdisciplinary Centers, which work in concert to address critical health, disease, and injury-related problems faced by the military family—and by extension, the nation at large. Given the breadth and complexity of conditions facing U.S. service members and their families, the approach to solving these issues is wide-ranging.
Each USU Center aligns its mission with DoD priorities or requirements in health, disease, and/or injury. The range of their focus spans identifying genetic and environmental causes of, and devising cutting-edge treatments for cancer and complex war injuries to optimizing disaster management and improving the diagnosis and management of blast-related brain injury and psychological stress—including suicide prevention. Centers are working on new pain management strategies, improving global health, and optimizing the physical and emotional resilience of warfighters and their families. Among the products delivered by the Centers are those aimed at improving casualty care in the early phases after severe injury, and those aimed at optimizing service member recovery and function with innovative prosthetics, and rehabilitation strategies.
Precision Medicine Initiative for Military Medical Education and Research (PRIMER)