Fifth Annual Major Jonathan Letterman Medical Excellence Award

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine congratulates the winners of the Fifth Annual Major Jonathan Letterman Medical Excellence Award.  COL Craig D. Shriver won the individual award and COL Dallas Hack accepted the organizational award on behalf of The Department of Defense Combat Casualty Care Research Program.

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine, located in Frederick, MD, established the Major Jonathan Letterman Medical Excellence Award to recognize an organization and an individual that contributes to the advancement of medical processes and improved patient outcomes and quality-of-life. This year’s event was held at Bethesda North Marriott on October 24, 2012.  The keynote speaker was best-selling New York Times author Lee Woodruff.  Mrs. Woodruff shared her personal story about the treatment and recovery of her husband ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff from a head wound he suffered while embedded with troops in Iraq.  It was a rare opportunity for leaders in military medicine to hear how their hard work and advancements affect families and survivors.  This year’s winners are detailed below.

The Combat Casualty Care Research Program (CCCRP) was formed to reduce the mortality and morbidity resulting from injuries on the battlefield, with the following goals:  1. to reduce the mortality rate of American troops by 16 percent, 2. to reduce the morbidity of combat injuries, and 3. to reduce the medical footprint on the battlefield.

The need for advancements in battlefield treatment became apparent to the military with the numbers of casualties in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. As combat operations accelerated, it was found that medi­cal treatment had not advanced significantly since previous wars and gaps in medical treatment were discovered in large numbers as medical personnel gained experience and compiled statistics of battlefield situations. The Joint Theater Trauma Registry was formed to gain a clearer picture of the gaps in medical research and the frequency of their occurrence.  As of this date, the CCCRP has approximately 1,000 combat casualty care research projects from basic research through clinical trials.

Colonel Craig D. Shriver serves as the Interim Director, Cancer Center, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center/Joint Task Force (WRNMMC/JTF); Chief, General Surgery Service, WRNMMC/JTF; Program Director, NCC General Surgery; Professor of Surgery, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU); and Director and Principal Investigator, Clinical Breast Care Project, WRNMMC/JTF.

Known for his wartime vision and practices, COL Shriver devised an innovative method of closing severe abdominal wounds that even­tually enabled more than 85% of patients to leave the hospital with closed abdomens. Many of these patients returned to duty and deployed again. The technique is applicable to all patients with open abdo­men wounds and translates to civilian practice as well. In an unprecedented surgery, with the collaboration of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the University of Miami collaborated, COL Shriver performed the first pancreas islet cell transplant.

COL Shriver also developed a system of support for returning wounded warriors. His overarching goal was to tap the lead­ership and wisdom of trauma surgeons to create a unique, modern platform for the comprehensive care of injured patients. His hybrid care-giving model employs staff surgeons, midlevel care providers, and residents who provide optimal treatment to soldiers and their families and bolsters the knowledge of the resident education community. The endeavor is a model for modern wartime stateside care.

The Letterman Award was established to celebrate Major Letterman’s visionary work as Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac.  He created what is now known as the Letterman Plan, which saved the lives of countless Civil War soldiers; and continues to save lives on today’s battlefields in Iraq, Afghanistan, and wherever emergency medical help is needed.  Letterman’s contribution was not that of the stereotypical surgeon with sleeves rolled up, tending to individuals wounded on the battlefield; rather he created an infrastructure which allowed all of the surgeons of the Army of the Potomac to work more effectively and, for the first time, as a team.  His  two-fold mission allowed surgeons to provide quality critical care to those most in need which resulted in more lives saved and a “triage” mentality that provided those not mortally wounded with the ability to get back to active duty or active life sooner and healthier.  Letterman’s ability to evaluate and update the medical care of the time and empower others on his medical teams to focus on the mission to protect and sustain the Army of the Potomac allowed him to create a plan that has become the foundation of not only battlefield medicine but also civilian emergency medical care today.

October 24, 2013 is the date for the Sixth Annual Major Jonathan Letterman Awards Dinner for Medical Excellence.  The venue will once again be the Bethesda North Marriott from 6:00 to 9:00pm.  For more information or to nominate a worthy individual or organization, please contact David Price at

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