By J. Ellen Crown, USAMRMC Deputy PAO
In life, there are many moments that pass you by. Then there are the ones that change you.
Long before U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick’s new Commander Brig. Gen. (promotable) Joseph Caravalho, Jr. was ever an Army officer, he remembers such a moment.
It was the moment he decided to become a doctor.
“I was a junior in high school (at a Catholic academy), and a Marianist Brother sat me down,” tells Caravalho. “He asked me if I knew that I could be anything I wanted to be. No one had ever told me this before.”
Caravalho grew up in Hawaii and came from a modest family that he describes as “blue collar.” His mother, of Chinese heritage, worked a series of jobs, ranging from waitress to hotel housekeeper to cantina cook. His father, who was Puerto Rican, was a policeman in the Honolulu Police Department.
“Looking back now, it appears we struggled financially; with that, I’m most proud of my parents for sacrificing to send the five of us children to Catholic schools through high school,” he says. “They also instilled in us the sense of human dignity, personal humility, selfless service and respect for authority.”
Officially, Caravalho’s road to the Army and Army Medicine began when he attended Army ROTC at Gonzaga University, in Spokane, Wash., where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics. He admits he had not thought about the Army before then, but, by the time he reached college, he was ready to give it a try.
“It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the Army,” admits Caravalho. “I definitely knew I wanted to have a career as an Army officer.”
He also knew what kind of career he wanted and that was one that offered a unique balance of clinical and operational medicine.
After earning his medical doctorate from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences School of Medicine in Bethesda, Md., Caravalho completed a transitional internship and then served a tour with the Special Forces. Afterwards, he decided to take an Internal Medicine residency because in his words he wanted, “to be a good medical diagnostician.” He then served a year as an internist and the next two years in the field as a surgeon for a Ranger regiment.
“During this time, I knew I had to get back to clinical medicine full time. I was intrigued with the idea of nuclear cardiology, so I entered a nuclear medicine fellowship. After two years on the Walter Reed Nuclear Medicine staff, I returned to training in cardiology,” he says.
All in all, throughout his career Caravalho has held positions as a staff internist, nuclear medicine physician, and cardiologist.
“Looking back now, I have been incredibly fortunate to balance my military medical career with stints in clinical, academic, operational and executive medicine,” reflects Caravalho.
Along the way, Caravalho said he grew, not only as a clinician, but also as a leader. As he moved up the ranks, Caravalho commanded the 28th Combat Support Hospital and the 44th Medical Command (Rear) (Provisional), both at Fort Bragg, N.C. He deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom serving as the surgeon for both Multi-National Force-Iraq and Multi-National Corps-Iraq. Following his last deployment, he served as the Commanding General for Great Plains Regional Medical Command, and then, under MEDCOM reorganization, for both Southern Regional Medical Command and Brooke Army Medical Command, both at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Most recently, Caravalho served as Commander, Northern Regional Medical Command at Fort Belvoir, Va. On Jan. 11, he assumed command of USAMRMC and Fort Detrick. As the Army’s medical materiel developer, USAMRMC focuses on medical research, development and acquisition, and medical logistics management. USAMRMC headquarters is located at Fort Detrick, Md., and supports 12 subordinate commands and 6 executive agencies located throughout the world.
“The most important thing I’ve learned in the past 10 years of my career is that Army Medicine is an exceedingly complex, multi-faceted organization, all of which are integral to its overall success. I am extraordinarily honored and privileged to be part of the logistics, acquisition and research facets of Army Medicine,” Caravalho explains. “I look forward to taking this organization forward in light of the changing environment, including budget constraints, emerging requirements, and the Military Health System reorganization to create the Defense Health Agency.”
Caravalho adds that he is keenly aware that he is not solely serving an organization, but rather he is serving an organization of people. As a leader, he says he strives for both military and civilian staff members to feel supported and balanced on both personal and professional levels. Family life is important to him too, he says, adding that he’s been married for nearly 29 years and has two adult children.
Perhaps most importantly, he hopes to ensure others around him feel confident – in both the certain and uncertain moments – that they are a part of a great amount of good that is happening right now, here and around the globe.
“Embrace this honor, this gift, this calling,” advises Caravalho. “Because of you, the Army and Army Medicine will continue to excel.”