Army to honor doctor for fighting deadly viruses

Dr. Edmund C. Tramont was an Army physician for 23 years.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 10, 2012) -- A retired Army doctor who helped develop vaccines to protect troops from meningitis, AIDS, hepatitis, diarrhea, and many other infectious diseases, will be among civilians saluted Thursday.

"His lifetime of dedication to military medicine has resulted in ... dramatic, positive impacts on the resiliency and readiness of our Soldiers," reads an excerpt from the Outstanding Civilian Service Award, which will be presented to Dr. Edmund C. Tramont.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno will recognize Tramont during a Twilight Tattoo at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va.

Tramont graduated from Boston University School of Medicine in 1966 and two years later he entered the Army, where his military medical career began. During his 23 years of active Army service, he compiled achievements including establishing infectious disease clinical and research programs at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Walter Reed Institute of Research in 1970.

He also developed policies concerning HIV/AIDS in 1986 -- a new and unknown disease at that time -- which were compassionate toward those infected, while they also maintained force health protection and readiness. Those forward-looking policies remain in force today and have been a blueprint for civilian policies.

Also while in the Army, he helped develop the Meningococcal vaccine. That vaccine protects against Neisseria meningitidis, a bacterium that causes meningitis, meningococcemia, septicemia, and sometimes septic arthritis, carditis and pneumonia, and can especially be a threat in basic training. He also designed and implemented vaccine trials for gonorrhea, shigella and HIV and participated in the development of the Adenovirus and Hepatitis B vaccines. Shigella can cause severe dysentery, is spread by flies and is of particular threat to troops in combat.

Besides doing research on infectious diseases in the Army, he also cared for patients. In fact, as a medical resident in 1968, he helped care for the ailing former President Dwight D. Eisenhower who was dying of heart disease.

"Despite being bedridden, (Eisenhower) was lucid and we talked about everything from golf and war to politics and life in general," he said. "I wish I were older and wiser then because I did not have a sufficient base of knowledge to appreciate all he had to say. If I could go back, I'd have a lot of questions to ask him."

After retiring from the Army in 1991, Tramont was recruited by the University of Maryland to restructure its Medical Biotechnology Center along lines similar to the the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. While there, he established the Institute of Human Virology.

In 2001, he became director of the AIDS Division of the National Institutes of Health's Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. During his tenure there, he helped lay the groundwork for the Army's collaborative efforts with NIH to produce vaccines that protect Soldiers and others from the infections indigenous to the tropics such as the Ebola, Marburg and Dengue viruses.

Tramont called NIH's collaboration with the Army and other services "manna from heaven," explaining that "NIH does the best basic or discovery research in the world, but is not organized to do the necessary field work and clinical trials in the developing world to determine the efficacy of those vaccines in the field."

As to being presented a Lifetime Achievement Award by Odierno, Tramont said it was "quite a surprise" and that he feels "humbled and honored."

The award recognizes Tramont "as a true ambassador for Army medicine. (His) efforts to establish important medical research have resulted in life-saving breakthroughs in medical training and biomedical research."

As the associate director for Special Projects, he is responsible for establishing collaborations between NIAID/NIH and the military for militarily-relevant infectious diseases. Tramont said he will continue that work at the NIH with great zeal and passion.