Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs tours UNMC campus

Lester Martínez-López, MD, assistant secretary of defense for Health Affairs tours iEXCEL during a recent visit to the UNMC campus. (Photo by Nicholas Harnack, 55th Wing Public Affairs, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska)

Lester Martínez-López, MD, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, joined by Air Force officials, toured the UNMC campus at the end of October as part of an ongoing partnership between the military and the university.

Dr. Martínez spent the morning with campus leaders before touring the Global Center for Health Security’s facilities, iEXCEL and the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit. He was joined by Brig. Gen. Robert Bogart, commander of the 711th Human Performance Wing; Col. Tory Woodard, commander of the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine; and Col. Leslie Wood, chair of the en route care training department at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine; and others who oversee C-STARS sites across the nation, including in Omaha.

Dr. Martínez, with more than 30 years of military health experience, said he saw “a healthy relationship between the university and the Department of Defense, particularly the Air Force,” one that “sets the stage for further collaboration.”

During the tour, Dr. Martínez engaged with university officials, often asking questions at tour stops. He visited the National Quarantine Unit, took a look at ISTARI devices and enjoyed a presentation in the iEXCEL’s state-of-the-art holographic theater.

The visit was a chance to bring together critically important collaborators to discuss current initiatives and future opportunities, said Chris Kratochvil, MD, interim vice chancellor of external relations.

UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, met with the group at several points during the visit.

“The partnership between UNMC and the military continues to benefit our community and the country,” Dr. Gold said. “This visit allowed us to illustrate the results of several decades of that partnership and paved a way to expand that relationship in the future. The opportunity to serve the health security needs of our nation continues to be very important.”

Dr. Martínez and his team also heard from Lt. Col. Elizabeth Schnaubelt, MD, director of C-STARS Omaha. The visit was a chance to showcase work being done on campus, she said.

“It’s an opportunity to highlight our collaborative successes with our Nebraska partners and how we can better prepare our Department of Defense personnel,” Dr. Schnaubelt said. “The extraordinary accomplishments of Nebraska Medicine and UNMC in biocontainment care, education and training, research and innovation, provide a model and roadmap to advance readiness for high consequence infections and biological incidents.”

“Our partnership with UNMC is an opportunity to glean greater scientific knowledge,” Brig. Gen. Bogart said. “We as a nation are benefitting from it.”

Dr. Martínez agreed.

“The country can really count on Nebraska and the university to help us with tough issues we’re going to be facing. There’s a true commitment, not just to Nebraska, but to the country.”

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