A challenging career ﬁeld for Army docs
By KAREN FLEMING-MICHAEL
U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel
Command Public Affairs
A lab scientist doing clinical pharmacol-
ogy work was the last thing COL Colin Ohrt
wanted to be when he was in his second year
of studying new antimalarial drugs in rural
Thailand and Indonesia.
“I wanted to be a doc, a clinical person,” he
said. “I didn’t know what a clinical pharma-
After being strongly encouraged to train as MAJ Shon Remich a clinical pharmacolo-
a clinical pharmacologist a decade ago, Ohrt gist with the U.S. Army Medical Research
now thinks it was one of the best opportunities Unit–Kenya works in the ﬁeld, helping to bring
improved malaria drugs to people where the
he’s had since joining the Army.
disease is endemic. Successes realized in
In a nutshell, Army clinical pharmacolo-
these settings beneﬁt servicemembers who
gists are medical doctors who have a talent may be stationed in areas where malaria is
for developing medicines and creating clinical pervasive. (Photo by LTC Robert Scott Miller)
trials to safely test them in people. Also called
translational medicine, clinical pharmacology the Uniformed Services University of the
is a growing career within the Army Medical Health Sciences or at the Walter Reed Army
Research and Materiel Command, which de- Institute of Research’s overseas labs in Kenya
velops drugs and vaccines for service members or Thailand.
and takes those products through the Food and Leary, who tells people he’s involved in
Drug Administration’s licensing process. clinical drug development because it’s more
“The MRMC is focused on developing new descriptive than clinical pharmacology, said
therapeutics for the warﬁghter,” said MAJ that “we are currently involved in clinical test-
Kevin Leary, who completed his clinical phar- ing of new therapeutics for malaria to bridge
macology fellowship in June 2005. “It can take the gap between bench work and more ad-
a long time, sometimes more than 10 years, for vanced clinical trials.”
us to complete the necessary safety and ef- Ohrt now directs the Army’s Clinical Phar-
ﬁcacy studies to satisfy FDA requirements for macology Fellowship Training Program, which
approval. We’re trying to get talented people targets its recruiting efforts toward doctors who
interested in learning about clinical drug devel- have hands-on experience and have primary
opment so this process can be more efﬁcient.” care backgrounds, like internal medicine, pedi-
Army docs, like Leary, who complete the atrics or family practice, because they need to
Army’s training fellowship in clinical pharma- be able to take care of people in clinical trials.
cology, can end up conducting clinical trials at “Although the primary focus of our work is
the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, research, we still see patients. We’re medical
Fellowship info— doctors and need to maintain clinical skills,”
Clinicial Pharmacology said Leary, who trained in internal medicine.
Deﬁned: a medical sub-specialty con- Now at the Uniformed Services University of
cerned with better understanding and use of Health Sciences, he sees patients at the Walter
existing drugs and developing more effective Reed Army Medical Center and the National
and safer drugs for the future Naval Medical Center. He also teaches medical
Duties: receive training in clinical re- students, develops curriculum for the universi-
search, conduct basic research on drug ty’s clinical pharmacology program and works
actions and applied research in drug develop- on clinical trials for anti-malarial drugs.
ment, provide therapeutic advice to physi- MAJ David Saunders, the fellow start-
cians, teach medical students ing in July, is currently serving in Operation
Duration: Two years, including time at Enduring Freedom, gaining hands on clinical
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, experience in leishmaniasis and malaria and
Silver Spring, Md.; the Uniformed Services supporting the Army mission on the ground to
University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, gain greater understanding of the needs of the
Md.; and the Food and Drug Administration, warﬁghter.
Rockville, Md. MAJ Kent Bennett, a doctor of osteo-
Application deadline: Sept. 15, opens July pathic medicine in his ﬁrst year of the clinical
15. The program begins July 1 of the follow- pharmacology training fellowship, says the
ing year. Interested Army doctors should con- program is what he expected. He’s been tak-
tact their local Graduate Medical Education ing classes two nights a week at the National
ofﬁce; COL Colin Ohrt, co-director, Clinical Institutes of Health after spending his days at
Pharmacology Fellowship Training Program, the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in
email@example.com; or Dr. Louis Cantile- the Experimental Therapeutics Division, which
na, co-director, Clinical Pharmacology Fel- specializes in creating drugs to treat malaria.
lowship Training Program, lcantilena@mxa. “Basically, I try to become the bridge be-
usuhs.mil tween the basic scientist and the medical
Duty stations after graduation: world,” said Bennett, who is board certiﬁed in
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research preventive medicine and was a pharmacist in a
—drug development, teaching, basic and ap- little hospital on an Indian reservation in New
plied research, clinical research Mexico for the Indian Health Service before
Kenya, Thailand—clinical studies and tri- joining the Army. “I’m still a ﬁrst year fellow,
als in areas where tropical infectious diseases so I haven’t done much on my own.”
are prevalent. Next year, Bennett will spend time at the
Uniformed Services University of the Uniformed Services University of the Health
Health Sciences—teaching, basic and applied Sciences, which co-directs the fellowship. Af-
research, clinical research ter that, he’ll have a three-month rotation at the
U.S. Army Medical Materiel Develop- Food and Drug Administration so he can see
ment Activity, Fort Detrick—advanced prod- how translational medicine ultimately comes
uct development, clinical research, teaching, together. He will also visit the Armed Forces
regulatory affairs. Research Institute of Medical Science in Thai-
Walter Reed Army Medical Center, land to see if he and the lab are a good ﬁt.
National Naval Medical Center— teaching, “That’s the working hypothesis now, that I’ll
consultation, clinical research. go to Thailand after the fellowship,” he said.
Ohrt has spent a third of his career at over-
Additional Web info— American Society of Clinical Pharmacol-
Clinicial Pharmacology ogy and Therapetuics: www.ascpt.org
ASCPT Annual Meeting: http://www.
WRAIR Clinical Pharmacology Web site: ascpt.org/annualmeeting2006/2006_brochure.
ClinicalPharmacology/ClinicalPharmacology. American Board of Clinical Pharmacol-
asp ogy: www.abcp.net
seas labs, and is convinced the time clinical people living in the Western world aren’t af-
pharmacologists spend there helps improve fected much.”
military and public health. “The military has a The Army offers one slot every year for
problem with malaria, so we do drug develop- the fellowship. “We are looking for the right
ment. But there are one to two million deaths people to apply,” Ohrt said. No other military
per year and 500,000 cases of illness every service offers the career, so the group is a tight-
year from malaria. Instead of getting better knit fraternity within the Army.
it’s actually getting worse,” he said. “This is “It’s a real way to make a difference but in
a disease that actually can be eliminated from a different way than what the usual physician
many parts of the world. Compared to the other does, which is one patient at a time,” he said.
major public health problems, like HIV and “You can make substantial new discoveries that
cancer, it’s still relatively neglected because will impact public health.”