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You are here:  HOME  >  What's New  >  Unprecedented growth marks AFRRI director's tenure
PREVIOUS HEADLINES

New handbook guides
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Unprecedented growth marks
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Unprecedented growth marks AFRRI director’s tenure

 
LTC Jennifer Lindsay-Dodoo, AFRRI Director COL Patricia K. Lillis-Hearne, Deputy Director COL Donald E. Hall, and Johnson Controls Project Manager Earrol Price
Photo: HM1 Michael Oliver (USU)

AFRRI executives (standing, left to right) Chief of Staff LTC Jennifer Lindsay-Dodoo, MS, USA; Director COL Patricia K. Lillis-Hearne, MC, USA; and Deputy Director COL Donald E. Hall, MS, USA, review recent upgrades to the AFRRI mechanical penthouse with Johnson Controls Project Manager Earrol Price. The many improvements during Lillis-Hearne’s tenure at AFRRI include a new HVAC system that replaced decades-old equipment and ultraviolet lighting that was used in the penthouse and will replace standard lighting wherever possible to reduce electrical consumption.

Bethesda, Md., April 12, 2010–The four years leading up to the 50th anniversary of the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI) in 2010 have included significant accomplishments in terms of personnel, funding, and facilities essential to the Institute’s continued success.  

"This has been an unprecedented time in AFRRI history," said Institute Director COL Patricia K. Lillis-Hearne, MC, USA, referring to the contributions of managers and researchers who were challenged to adopt new ideas, accommodate additional personnel, and tolerate the facility improvement pains. Lillis-Hearne, who became AFRRI director in July 2006, will hand over the reins of leadership in a ceremony on April 16 to COL Mark A. Melanson, MSC, USA, who previously served as the chief of Health Physics at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC.

"The director’s job," said COL Lillis-Hearne, "is to enable people to succeed, to provide an atmosphere so they can fly on their own." To that end during her tenure, the Institute significantly increased its number of scientific personnel to 154 positions, brought in some $46 million in research funds, and completed or began $58 million worth of infrastructure improvements and laboratory renovations.

As for personnel, she said, "Reflecting the incredible caliber of our officer and enlisted staff, we had the highest percentage ever of success among our enlisted in the Army’s Green to Gold Program and the Navy’s Seaman to Admiral-21 Program as well as unprecedented scientific success among our officer/scientists as measured by publications and grant monies." The Army’s Green to Gold Program and the Navy’s Seaman to Admiral-21 Program offer enlisted military members the opportunity to earn Army or Navy officer commissions.

"The financial support provided through the efforts of the Uniformed Services University [USU] was absolutely tremendous," said Lillis-Hearne, "with credit going to Dr. Charles L. Rice, USU president currently performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, and especially to USU Vice President for Finance and Administration Stephen Rice and his staff, Navy Captain [Retired] Toni Whitmeyer and Walt Tinling."

Lillis-Hearne pointed out that, with the leadership of AFRRI Scientific Director Terry Pellmar, PhD, and now Interim Scientific Director Christopher R. Lissner, PhD, AFRRI conducted a gap analysis of the organization’s capabilities and developed a blueprint to properly align personnel and successfully attract scientists to fill critical positions including a nuclear engineer, health physicists, and research biologists. During this time, AFRRI established interactions with more than 40 research institutes and pharmaceutical companies to test the radioprotective effects of their compounds. AFRRI’s Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) Program was enhanced to validate the consistency and reliability of laboratory results, and a database was developed to compile more than 100 potential radiation countermeasures now used by scientists to evaluate and select the best agents to use to protect against radiation exposure.

In another arena, Lillis-Hearne, who is board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology, and radiation oncology, provided her expertise to the accredited AFRRI Medical Effects of Ionizing Radiation Course, which is provided to military medical professionals around the world to address evolving threats and present the latest clinical knowledge on the subject. "The AFRRI Military Medical Operations personnel," she said, "increased course attendance from 445 students in 2008 to 945 in 2009. Under the leadership of MMO Director Air Force Col Andy Huff, we published the third edition of the AFRRI handbook Medical Management of Radiological Casualties and revised the Textbook of Military Medicine: Nuclear Warfare volume of the series published by the Borden Institute. Both are widely used by military members and civilians to keep up with the latest information concerning the biological effects of ionizing radiation and to respond to emergency situations involving possible radiation exposure.

"Some of my favorite activities though," she said, "were the interactions with the USU MS-I [Military Studies I] students and with Dr. Simon Auster in the Human Context in Medicine Course as well as seeing patients on Thursday mornings at NNMC [National Naval Medical Center]. Coordinating my busy schedule was Executive Secretary Mrs. Yvonne Smith, who kept me out of trouble and made sure I showed up at the right airport and hotel room during my heavy travel times."

Facility improvements were another centerpiece of Lillis-Hearne’s tenure. The work, she said, was overseen by Chief of Staff Jennifer Lindsay-Dodoo, LTC, MS, USA, and laboratory design expertise was provided by USU Vice President for Research Steven Kaminsky. Infrastructure and renovation programs included the first BSL-3 (Biosafety Level 3) and GLP (Good Laboratory Practices) laboratories at USU as well as a redesign of laboratory space surrounding the reactor area spearheaded by AFRRI Deputy Director COL Donald Hall, MS, USA, and Radiation Facilities Director Steve Miller.

Elaborating on the contributions of employees, Lillis-Hearne pointed specifically to the Veterinary Sciences Department staff members, who are led by Department Head MAJ Larry J. Shelton, Jr., VC, USA, and include Comparative Pathology Division Chief MAJ Eric Lombardini, VC, USA. Of their accomplishments, Lillis-Hearne said, "They are to be lauded not only for passing both of the inspections during my tenure, the most recent one ‘without findings,’ but also for receiving a determination of ‘exemplary’ from the accrediting organization AAALAC International. The inspector noted that this was only the second time he has ever seen that determination.

"All in all," said Lillis-Hearne, "I am extremely proud to have had this opportunity to work with the fine professionals at AFRRI and USU to accomplish goals that will have lasting effects on our country’s ability to provide the very best protection to our military personnel and our citizens."

AFRRI uses its unique resources to study the biological effects of ionizing radiation and to provide medical training and emergency response. It is part of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences under the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.
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