When the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine was looking to hold its annual awards event outside of its usual Washington, DC, San Antonio was a logical choice.
“San Antonio is not only a major center for military medicine, it is also the proud home of incredible biomedical research organizations within academia and industry,” said Dr. Joseph Caravalho, president and chief of the management of the foundation created by Congress in 1983.
“The way San Antonio’s military and civilian clinicians and medical researchers routinely collaborate with each other to lead is a model that should be emulated by other cities across the country.”
San Antonio’s life sciences sector as a whole contributes $42 billion a year to the regional economy and attracts $530 million in federal research grants, according to 2019 figures from the industry advocacy group. BioMedSA.
Caravalho already knew of the close relationship between the city and the military, having served as commanding general at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) from 2009 to 2011. The foundation wants others to know that, too.
“What I would like to see are more multi-site, multi-year studies done in San Antonio,” he said. “I want military medicine to understand the capabilities and partnership opportunities within San Antonio.”
Caravalho added that he hopes American industry, universities and businesses will leverage the resources of military medicine in San Antonio for the benefit of the “combatant” and, ultimately, the civilian population.
A 2018 report by the San Antonio Economic Development Corporation described the military medical presence in San Antonio, stating that the Department of Defense’s life sciences industry represented one of the most significant potential impacts for growth. of the city’s life sciences ecosystem.
“The long-term goal is to create the environment with the right tools and processes to promote military life science innovation and bring those innovations to market quickly,” the Action Plan authors said. for the commercialization of military life sciences.
“I want people outside the area to see San Antonio as… not just a local research center,” Caravalho said. “It is of national importance and a big reason for that is the strong military-civilian partnership.”
With that in mind, the foundation last week recognized San Antonio’s civilian and military medical professionals as heroes of military medicine.
They included two retired military officers – Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Juan Ayala, director of the city’s Office of Military and Veterans Affairs who received the Ambassador’s Award, and Army Col. Ian Thompson, physician and president and director of development at Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Foundation and Christus Santa Rosa Friends Foundation, who received the civilian provider award.
Real estate developer and civic leader Marty Wender, who was treated for severe burns at local military and civilian hospitals, was also recognized and awarded the Civilian Patient Award.
The foundation presented Air Force Colonel Heather Yun, deputy commander of medical services and infectious disease specialist at BAMC, with a Hero of Military Medicine award.
As a military doctor, Yun helped run an intensive care unit caring for American troops in Afghanistan and led the training of two dozen infectious disease doctors while mentoring many others.
In 2020, she led the Army’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in San Antonio, conducting research, coordinating with local authorities, and establishing protocols for recruits in basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
“I started this job just before the pandemic started, so it was kind of a timing issue to have an infectious disease doctor in the command suite when the pandemic started,” Yun said. , who was chair of the department of medicine before being promoted to deputy commander.
Although it has dealt with outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Ebola and the new influenza virus before, dealing with COVID-19 preparedness issues for the military meant ‘everything’ needed early advice. of 2020.
Working in San Antonio for 21 years, Yun said his career has been spent finding ways to do what no one else is already doing and using his skills to fill a need.
The military has a patient population with unique needs and appreciates the city partnering with them in this effort.
“I really didn’t expect to be in San Antonio this long,” Yun said. “I tell people that there’s really no place I’d rather be. The city has been incredibly supportive of us and our mission.