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USAISR doctor earns prestigious award for medical excellence

By Dr. Steven Galvan | U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Public Affairs | Oct. 11, 2017


Dr. Frank Butler, a retired Navy captain and SEAL, was the recipient of the Maj. Jonathan Letterman Medical Excellence Award during a ceremony in Frederick, Md., Sept. 15.

Chairman of the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Butler accepted his award, which honors individuals, programs or organizations that have made exemplary contributions to civilian or military medicine.  

“Thanks to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine for maintaining a sharp focus on battlefield trauma care through the Letterman Award,” Butler said. “The men and women who defend our country on the battlefield are counting on military medicine to provide them with the absolute best care possible if they are wounded in combat. We have to live up to that trust every day.”

Former U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research commander and retired Army Col. (Dr.) John Holcomb nominated Butler for the award. Holcomb was the recipient of the Letterman Award last year.

"Without any exaggeration, Navy SEALs are more lethal, military and civilian divers are safer and thousands of wounded combatants are alive because of his singular efforts on tactical combat casualty care," Holcomb said.  

In the nomination write up, Holcomb pointed out that Butler’s singular achievement during his military career was to create and implement Tactical Combat Casualty Care. Tactical combat casualty care, or TCCC, is a comprehensive set of evidence-based, best practice battlefield trauma care guidelines now recognized as one of the most significant advances in combat casualty care during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“By merging good medicine with sound operational tactics, Butler has saved the lives of thousands of casualties during the recent wars,” Holcomb said.

“The best thing about receiving this award is that it gives me an opportunity to thank the many, many individuals and organizations who have helped with TCCC's 25-year journey to bring about these improvements in battlefield trauma care,” Butler said.

Butler thanked the volunteer group of trauma surgeons, emergency medicine and operational physicians, physician’s assistants and combat medical providers who are members of the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care, as well as all of the other members of the Tactical Combat Casualty Care Working Group.

“This group has been working nonstop for 16 years to make TCCC better,” he said. “Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Doug Robb described the TCCC group a few years back: ‘You guys are relentless and you are never satisfied.’ I think he meant that as a compliment, but either way, we certainly took it as one.”

He also noted the untiring efforts of the USAISR and his colleagues at the DOD’s Joint Trauma System to improve combat casualty care.

Butler gave special thanks to the military’s combat medics, corpsmen, and pararescuemen, noting that new trauma concepts in published research papers and new medical technologies don’t save lives.

“Until these courageous men and women take them into combat and use them to save lives on the battlefield – this award tonight is really about them.”