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News | Aug. 30, 2023

Leaders discuss capabilities and collaborations during Royal Thai Army Medical Department visit

By Lee Osberry Walter Reed Army Institute of Research

 The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) hosted a Royal Thai Army Medical Department (RTAMED) delegation to explore opportunities for further collaboration and bilateral support, on Aug. 10, 2023.
RTAMED Deputy Surgeon General, Maj. Gen. Kasem Phinyochon led the delegation as part of a nine-day strategic engagement with senior military medicine leaders across the Washington D.C. and San Antonio, Texas area. The event marked an opportunity to celebrate the 62-year partnership and the first time that an RTAMED delegation visited WRAIR since December 2017. 
“Global health diplomacy is a significant part of our mission, and important to military readiness in both of our nations,” said Col. Chad Koenig, WRAIR commander. “RTAMED is a dedicated partner in research collaboration, and for more than 62-years an example of how enduring commitment can lead to incredible success.  We remain committed to delivering infectious disease and brain health solutions which are crucial in the multi-domain operating environments of the Warfighter and our allies.” 
“I would like to express our sincere appreciation for the opportunity to learn more about the vital mission of WRAIR in discovering, designing, developing, and delivering globally impactful solutions for military infectious diseases, brain health, and performance optimization through innovative research,” Phinyochon said. “Through mutual support and knowledge exchange, we can keep our capabilities and accelerate advancements in medical science, ultimately benefitting not only our military personnel but also the civilian populations we serve.”
The RTAMED delegation, which included the RTA-AFRIMS Director General, the Army Medical Field Service School Education Director, and RTA-AFRIMS staff, were provided briefs about ongoing infectious disease surveillance, research, and product development capabilities to support global health. The Center for Infectious Diseases gave presentations on several branch-level research efforts, including wound infection, diarrheal disease, and viral diseases, and showed one of the unit’s newest capabilities, the cryogenic electron microscope.
The delegation also received a tour of the insectary, which presented Lt. Col. Jittawadee Murphy, WRAIR Entomology, branch director an unique opportunity to brief in her native language.
“To brief in Thai was very fulfilling and made the group feel more comfortable to ask questions. They were very impressed with the information and learned more about the collaboration between WRAIR, U.S. Army Medical Directorate-Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (USAMD-AFRIMS), and the RTA,” Murphy said. “Thailand has invaluable resources for infectious disease research, and the deputy surgeon general and RTA-AFRIMS Director General expressed interest in an exchange program for training between WRAIR and RTA officers.”
The delegation also provided insight into the broader research development mission for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command. The group took part in strategic meetings with Joseph Holland, MRDC Deputy to the Commanding General and the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity. Holland spoke about the value of the alliance between nations and described the importance of collaborative research efforts by AFRIMS to senior military officials across the region.
“The work we do together is a keystone element for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. Army Pacific, and the research bolsters this commitment for decades to come,” Holland said.
Holland also discussed the importance of other senior leader engagements schedule during the visit with the Defense Health Agency, the U.S. Navy Surgeon General, and prior visits with the Medical Center of Excellence.
“Our collaboration can lead to remarkable advancements in medical research, ultimately ensuring readiness and resilience of our armed forces,” RTA Maj. Gen. Phinyochon said.
The WRAIR portion of the visit concluded with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the new vivarium. The delegation also met with the Thai Embassy Defense Attaché and engaged in several cultural activities in the D.C. metro area. From 5-9 August, the delegation also met with leaders from the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, the International Program Director, the Medical Capability Development Integration Directorate, and the Medical Education and Training Campus leadership.
Col. Matthew Levine, U.S. Army Medical Directorate-Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, director, and Maj. Taylor Whitten, USAMD-AFRIMS executive officer, guided the group throughout the nine-day trip and reflected on the overall experience.    
“The visit underlined the strength of our relationships, not just as fellow researchers, but also as friends and allies,” Levine said. “The value goes well beyond the resulting tangible increases in scientific collaboration.”