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Soldier-Doctor Woodson Called On by Obama

MED prof picked as assistant secretary of defense for health affairs


Jonathan Woodson, a MED associate professor and associate dean, awaits Senate confirmation as assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Woodson

President Obama has nominated vascular surgeon Jonathan Woodson, an associate professor of surgery and associate dean for students, diversity, and multicultural affairs at the School of Medicine, as assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. Woodson, a brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserve, has applied his skills from the classroom to war zones in the Middle East, Iraq, and New York after September 11.

The appointment requires Senate confirmation.

Woodson’s was among a trio of nominations announced by the president on April 21. “I am confident that these skilled and dedicated individuals will be tremendous assets to my administration as we continue the important work of the American people,” the president said.

“Dr. Woodson is an excellent choice for this important role,” says Karen Antman, MED dean and Medical Campus provost. “His clinical and administrative experience and outstanding leadership will be of great value to our nation’s soldiers and veterans.”

Kate Walsh, president and CEO of Boston Medical Center, where Woodson is a senior attending vascular surgeon, says his military experience makes him the perfect candidate for this position. “He is well-prepared to handle the challenges,” says Walsh.

Indeed, Woodson’s résumé reads like the Iliad. He has been deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm in the first Gulf War, to Operation Enduring Freedom, to the current Iraq War, to Kosovo, to Central America for air medical evacuations and other missions, and to New York City after 9/11. He has been awarded the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and the Meritorious Service Medal. Last year the Association of American Medical Colleges honored him with the Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine Award.

If confirmed, Woodson would be in charge of the nation’s military health complex, responsible for issues ranging from treatment of soldiers wounded in war to the basic medical needs of almost 10 million active-duty and retired service personnel and their families. He would advise Defense Secretary Robert Gates on health matters and set health standards for military enlistments and deployments.

Woodson is an adjunct assistant professor of surgery at the federal Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and assistant surgeon general for reserve affairs, force structure, and mobilization in the Surgeon General’s office.

He graduated from the City College of New York and from New York University School of Medicine. He completed a residency in internal medicine and general and vascular surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. He holds an M.S.S. from the U.S. Army War College.

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

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