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October 2010 Issue

Critically wounded soliders are quickly moved to a field hospital. UC researchers are studying how rapid movement and altitude changes associated with air medical evacuation may impact survival.
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$24 Million Grant From U.S. Air Force Boosts Research

By Katy Cosse
Published October 2010

UC’s Institute for Military Medicine will be able to continue and expand its research on combat casualty care and aeromedical evacuation through a new agreement with the United States Air Force (USAF).

The award has a ceiling of $24 million to fund research housed at the institute, says Alex Lentsch, PhD, vice chairman for research in the department of surgery and director of the institute. While the Air Force has funded multiple projects in the past, he says this agreement allows for a direct and more efficient flow of research funds.

"What we’ve created in terms of the Institute for Military Medicine is really founded in our great relationship with the Air Force,” he says. "It runs very parallel with what we do as a department, in terms of our strengths in basic and clinical research.”

The agreement is set to fund five research tasks in its beginning—from projects studying the effect of aeromedical evacuation on the body’s inflammatory response (and possible treatments to offset those effects) to clinical studies on oxygen requirements after traumatic injury.

Richard Branson, professor of surgery, will lead a project determining oxygen requirements using an oxygen concentrator at altitude, a continuation of five years of work studying how best to delivery oxygen safely and efficiently in austere environments.

"The USAF is our partner in all of this research,” he says. "Our work is often spurred on by a gap in knowledge or a gap in technology which the USAF has identified. We try to use our expertise to bridge the gap while heavily depending on their expertise of the flight environment.”


Other projects set to receive funding include department of anesthesia research on video assistant intubation devices and a department of emergency medicine project that provides local first responders tools to measure the amount of oxygen needed by victims of traumatic injuries.


But Lentsch says the work isn’t limited to those five tasks: "This agreement allows us to work with the Air Force to continually develop new ideas and new studies that can answer questions for which they need answers. As those projects develop, we can add them on under the umbrella of this agreement.


"What we hope is that we can build on these research programs to increase the job growth related to our research. We have a great capacity to do more research that is relevant to the military at UC.”


In one of the new projects funded by the agreement…


Researchers will study the medical teams treating combat causalities during evacuation. Specifically, they’ll look at "task saturation” in the training of Critical Care Air Transport (CCAT) teams at UC’s Center for Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills (C-STARS).


"Task saturation is simply when things come at you too quickly to react to—we know it occurs in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit); we think it occurs during C-CAT missions,” says Timothy Pritts, MD, PhD, associate professor of surgery. By videotaping CCAT teams being trained in the simulator, Pritts says researchers will seek to find the saturation as it happens. They can then investigate ways to mitigate it during flights.


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