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NEWS | Oct. 4, 2023

59th MDW: Chief Scientist’s medical director selected as DARPA program manager

By 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs

Lt. Col. (Dr.) Adam Willis, formerly a Medical Director and Clinician Scientist of the 59th Medical Wing Chief Scientist’s Office, now serves as the program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in the Biotechnologies Office.
His role in the BTO is developing new programs to push technology development and generating new technologic solutions for the warfighter. He also oversees existing programs, creates training for faculty, and builds Small Business Initiative Research and Small Business Technology Transfer opportunities, with a focus on operational needs.
In 2022, Willis was one of four officers in the Air Force selected for the DARPA Service Chiefs Fellows Program, which immerses military officers and government civilians in innovative, fast-paced science and technology research. This three-month fellowship provided Willis with insight into cutting-edge technology while potentially facilitating the development of future DARPA technologies. This experience led to his recruitment as a DARPA program manager in 2023.
During his time at the 59th MDW Chief Scientist’s Office, Willis was highly productive. At Brooke Army Medical Center, he worked as a staff neurointensivist and neurologist. He also executed clinical research in the biomechanics of brain injury and neuroergonomics of operational tasks to improve overall warfighter brain health for performance and readiness.

Additionally, Willis is a trained flight surgeon and holds the Special Experience Identifier as a physician member of a Critical Care Air Transport Team.
In 2020, Willis was accepted as a fellow to the Clinician Scientist Opportunity Network which trains and mentors clinicians in executing research within the Department of Defense. He quickly ramped up his research program into a nearly $10 million dollar research portfolio while at the 59th MDW, with over 30 collaboration agreements between universities, Biotech companies and other DOD research laboratories.

As his experience grew, he published more than 20 peer-reviewed journal articles, several book chapters and gave numerous technical presentations. Always looking to the future of research, Willis has mentored numerous military offices, medical residents, and engineering graduate students to develop the next generation of biomedical researchers.
Willis began his journey as an officer in the Air Force in 1999. His education includes a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Notre Dame, a Master of Science, and a Doctor of Philosophy in theoretical and applied mechanics from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He also obtained his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Illinois Chicago. During his clinical residency, he specialized in neurology, and his fellowship training was for neurocritical care with an active board-certification in both. 
Throughout his career, Willis received several notable awards including recognition for his achievements in operational and scientific research.
As the DARPA program manager, Willis’ focus remains on challenges of casualty care within the near-pear environment, biomechanics of brain injury, neuroergonomics of operational tasks, and more.