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USU Professor Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Pasquina and Ramon Padilla in an office. Dr. Pasquina is examining Padilla's prosthetic arm.

Story by Stephanie Abdullah 

U.S. Army Medical Command  


Dr. Paul F. Pasquina is this year’s recipient of the AMSUS Lifetime Achievement Award. AMSUS is the Society of Federal Health Professionals and is a non-profit member-based educational and professional development association serving the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, federal health professionals and their families, industry partners and advocates for advancing health for all—especially through interagency collaboration.

The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented during the AMSUS Annual Meeting, which will be held virtually from Dec. 6-10. Pasquina is Professor and Chair of the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R) at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) and the Chief of the Department of Rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC).

“It’s an honor to receive this recognition,” said Pasquina.

Pasquina has 30 years of service to the nation, both as a Soldier and now as a civilian Department of Defense (DOD) physician. He has built world-class rehabilitation, therapy, research, and education programs. He has cared for the warfighter in combat during a tour to Iraq and he was involved in the care of almost every warfighter who came through Walter Reed with lost limbs, brain injuries, and other significant life-altering conditions.

Dr. Paul Pasquina
Dr. Paul F. Pasquina is this year's recipient of the AMSUS Lifetime
Achievement Award. AMSUS is the Society of Federal Health
Professionals and is a non-profit member-based educational and
professional development association serving the Department
of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services,
Department of Homeland Security, federal health professionals
and their families, industry partners and advocates for advancing
health for all - especially through interagency collaboration.
{Stephanie Abdullah)

“I am grateful to AMSUS,” said Pasquina. “I am grateful for their continued service. I am privileged to be associated with military medicine. I am proud to serve this nation,” he said.

Pasquina said he was drawn to the medical field because of his mother who was a nurse.

“I have fond memories of visiting her at the hospital on holidays when she had to work,” he said.

It was his father who encouraged him to not delay going to medical school when he did. Pasquina was in the one percent of his West Point graduating class who were selected to go on to graduate school. However, he said, he considered not going on to medical school right away.

“I was very comfortable with the military life,” he said. “I considered delaying going to medical school in favor of going on to a line unit instead. But when I spoke to my father about it, he told me to go on to medical school while I had the chance,” said Pasquina.

Pasquina attended the Uniformed Services University where he now works. There, he said, not only did the school have a superb curriculum, but they had a military unique curriculum, which he said prepares the students for military service. Pasquina ended up focused on physical medical rehabilitation (PMR).

“I really liked neurology. And I really liked sports medicine. PMR crossed both,” he said.

Pasquina has spent most of his career at Walter Reed—both when it was an Army hospital and now as a DOD facility.

“Being at Walter Reed was a unique situation,” he said. “Some of the casualties were my classmates from West Point. Some were family members of my classmates. Others were service members from units where my classmates were commanders. So working there was like an on-going class reunion. It was so special to me to be there to help them through extremely challenging times,” said Pasquina.

Walter Reed has the only residency program in PMR. Pasquina was quickly put in charge of most of the clinics. And he eventually became the chief of the residency program.

“At West Point, we were always talking about and planning to go to war. We all anticipated going to combat arms. Reflecting back to 9-11, none of us anticipated being at war for 20 years,” said Pasquina.

A man with a prosthetic arm reaches to open a car door.
Dedication to improving the latest technology and rehabilitation advancements for combat injured and others is the basis for Dr. Paul F. Pasquina's
selection for the 2020 AMSUS Lifetime Achievement Award. (Photo by Sharon Holland)

Pasquina said he is consciously aware that while his “combat zone” may be in the wards of Walter Reed, many of his West Point classmates and others are deploying into theater—some repeatedly. Some of them are spending years away from their families.

“I am reminded of this anytime I am providing care,” said Pasquina. “I may go home very late at night sometimes, but I am going home. I get to see my family regularly. I am very blessed in this way and couldn’t do this without the unwavering support and understanding of my wife and daughter.”

While Pasquina has spent most of his career at Walter Reed, he did deploy to Iraq once.

“My time in Iraq helped me see the caliber of folks serving in harm’s way, going out on patrols and such. I saw an incredible sense of service. The experience reinvigorated in me why we need to be committed. It’s about the people. We need to have the technology innovations to take care of them,” said Pasquina.

“As our service members continue to bear the burdens and sacrifice of war, we need to be there,” he continued. “Some people suffer with brain injuries for years. Limbs are not growing back. Lifelong conditions require long-term, life-long care,” said Pasquina.

Pasquina humbly acknowledges that providing the care that severely injured service members require takes a team.

“It’s almost embarrassing to receive an individual award when I think about the work our providers are doing and the resiliency of our patients. So many of our patients go on to live very fulfilling and rewarding lives,” said Pasquina. “I really hope this award shines light on the entire profession and the cutting-edge programs we have for amputation, limb dysfunction, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, etc.,” he said.

Dr. Pasquina and another man in a lab
Dr. Paul Pasquina, left, is chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Uniformed Services University and chief of the 
Department of Rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Pasquina recently received the 2020 Lifetime Achievement award from
AMSUS, The Society of Federal Health Professionals. (Uniformed Services University photo)

Pasquina said that research and education are very important to him. He reiterated the importance of always training the next generation of providers.

“I am always thinking about innovative ways that we can provide care. Otherwise, we are doing a disservice to our service members,” he said.

Dr. Richard W. Thomas is the President of USU, and he recommended Pasquina for the award. He had this to say about Pasquina:  Despite earning more than 50 major awards or honors over the past 30 years, he remains an incredibly humble man whose greatest reward is restoring the health and functionality of our wounded warriors through the application of his vast medical skills, infectious personality, and total commitment to each and every patient. He epitomizes the Lifetime Achievement award.


Note: Prior to his retirement from active military service, Dr. Pasquina served as the Chief of the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center, where he led integration efforts within the National Capital Region, responsible for the care of casualties from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, including those with complex blast trauma, amputation and traumatic brain injury. He also served as the PM&R specialty consultant to the Army Surgeon General; Senior Medical Officer of the Ortiz Level II Military Treatment Facility, International Zone, Baghdad, Iraq; and a Secretarial appointee for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Advisory Committee on Prosthetics and Special Disabilities Programs. He continues to serve as a consultant to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), U.S. Army’s Medical Research and Material Command (MRMC), U.S. Food and Drug Agency, and as a member of the Board of Visitors for the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories.