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The prayer that has been mine for 20 or more years
“The prayer that has been mine for 20 or more years, that I might be permitted in some way or sometime to do something to alleviate human suffering, has been answered!” – Walter Reed (1851-1902)
This quote was from a letter Walter Reed wrote from Columbia Barracks, Quenados, Cuba, to his wife and daughter during the last few minutes of the 19th century, 11:50 p.m., December 31, 1900.1 Walter Reed was expressing his sense of fulfillment and accomplishment for his role in proving, through a series of human experiments conducted by the U.S. Army Yellow Fever Board, that the mosquito (Aedes aegypti) was the vector for the spread of yellow fever that had plagued mankind for centuries. Though his life would tragically be cut short in November 1902 from complications arising from appendicitis, his legacy of military medical research and desire to serve his fellow man would reverberate for the next century in the halls of a new Army hospital named after him in 1909.
Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) officially cased its colors Wednesday, July 27, 2011, with many hospital staff, families and former patients in attendance. I have been a staff physician at WRAMC for more than a decade. My personal history with the institution is far more extensive. I was born in Building 1, the old hospital. I trained in the institution as a medical student, married at the Walter Reed Memorial Chapel, trained as an anesthesiology resident there, worked as a staff physician, deployed twice to war from the institution and for a time was chief of anesthesiology. Though my family and I have enjoyed duty stations throughout the nation and the world, WRAMC has always been the institution we came “home” to.
For many federal providers, including myself, WRAMC is far more than a collection of buildings on Georgia Avenue in Washington, where the Army placed a hospital. It was a spirit and attitude about military medicine that was unique within the Department of Defense and the world. The institution prided itself as a center for medical-scientific inquiry and innovation in patient care. Along with many others, I was attracted to the institution because it encouraged the development and training of military medical leaders and facilitated academic medical research.