05 September 2014

Col. Todd Rasmussen prepares for an operation in a Level III surgical facility at a previous assignment at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Photo provided by Col. Todd Rasmussen
CCCRP Director Volunteers at Baltimore VA Medical Center and Shock Trauma Center
By Lisa Morris, USAMRMC Public Affairs

Every Tuesday since January, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command’s Col. Todd Rasmussen commutes from his New Market home to the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center to donate his time as a vascular surgeon.

His new position as director of the Combat Casualty Care Research Program differs greatly from his previous assignments with military medical centers, both in-Garrison and deployed, including the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Wilford Hall Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center and Iraq and Afghanistan. He no longer spends the majority of his days in the operating room, which he knew he would miss before he arrived at the USAMRMC.

To ensure his skills as a surgeon would stay relevant, Rasmussen began the process of receiving his credentials at the VA and Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore almost as soon as he arrived at Fort Detrick.

After nine months, he became credentialed in December 2013 and began seeing patients as a volunteer surgeon in January.

“When I took this assignment, I was concerned about staying active as a surgeon because I believe most good medical research comes from bedside operations and examining questions like, ‘Could we have done the operation in a different or better way?’ and, ‘Could we have provided the operation or a medication at a different or more beneficial time?’” said Rasmussen. “Those types of clinical observations stimulate good research; especially those related to military injury.”

Apart from the lengthy process of becoming credentialed at the VA, another challenge Rasmussen recognizes includes sharing his time with his full-time assignment at the USAMRMC. He noted this venture would not have been possible without the support from Maj. Gen. Joseph Caravalho, Jr., commanding general, USAMRMC at Fort Detrick and Dr. John Glenn, principal assistant for Research and Technology.

“A lot of credit goes to Maj. Gen. Caravalho and Dr. Glenn. They had the vision and capacity to support this aspect of my profession,” said Rasmussen.

Dr. Glenn believes many health care providers from the USAMRMC have contributed to the success of the research and development mission, and those using the most updated knowledge and tools are often the most motivated leaders in pursuit of medical advancements. Rasmussen’s dedication to maintaining his surgical skills directly supports the research and development mission.

“Not all of those who make the transition from bedside to bench, or to R&D leadership, are committed to ending their clinical careers, and need to maintain their skills through clinical practice,” said Glenn. “The current generation of USAMRMC leaders, like the prior ones, has judged that the cost to the R&D mission is small in relation to the benefits returned, in terms of a sustained focus on solving clinical problems.”

The relationships Rasmussen developed with staff at the USAMRMC and at the VA demonstrate his ability to manage his mission in both places. Coworkers understand his situation when he must occasionally miss a meeting for a surgery, and fellow surgeons at the VA and Shock Trauma Center have the capacity to cover for him in a scheduled surgery if his duties at the USAMRMC call him back.

“I couldn’t say enough about the patience and support of many coworkers and mentors here at the USAMRMC. Although not unprecedented, this is a new approach to things, and I appreciate that,” said Rasmussen.

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