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2021 Top Ten Roundup: The Pulse Year-in-Review

A photo of the USU courtyard with the text "2021 Top Ten: The Pulse Year-in-Review" over it

For the Uniformed Services University, 2021 marked a year of perseverance, acknowledgment, and teamwork in support of humanity. The year exemplified the readiness, graciousness, and fortitude of USU students, faculty, and alumni both recent and those long since graduated. While COVID-19 has stayed fresh on the minds of every person, USU researchers actively sought answers, prospective students acted on the call to duty, eager to become members of the military medical community, and many more worked tirelessly to help those in need. 

In the same year, we all paused to take a step back and acknowledge the 20th anniversary of the devastating tragedy of September 11, 2001. Through The Pulse, we heard several harrowing accounts of 9/11, but through the lens of those who put themselves on the frontlines without hesitation to work through the horror of that day.

As 2021 draws to a close, The Pulse takes a moment to reflect on the top ten stories of the year so we can acknowledge, celebrate, and show gratitude to those members of the USU community who put their best foot forward and fight for a brighter future.


A collage of the wreckage at Shanksville, a skyline view of the smoke rising from Ground Zero, and the wreckage at the Pentagon.

10. 9/11: Why Four USU Graduates Ran Towards Disaster

Uniformed Services University alumni, faculty, staff and students were among the first responders in the aftermath of the attacks on America on September 11, 2001 -- at the Pentagon, World Trade Center, Shanksville, Pa., local Washington, DC-area military hospitals and clinics, with the U.S. Park Police, Armed Forces Medical Examiner’s office and at many other sites. Their extensive training and experience enabled them to react and mobilize quickly, many of them within seconds of the Pentagon attack. These are the stories of four USU graduates who had significant roles on 9/11. Read more



Christopher Bunag at a graduation ceremony.

9. USU Nursing Students Receive Medals for Life-Saving Response

The day was April 13, 2019. Army Maj. Crystal Kelley and Navy Lt. Christopher Bunag were stopped at a rest station on the side of Highway 62 in El Paso, Texas. The two Uniformed Services University Graduate School of Nursing students found themselves in this remote area, surrounded mostly by desert, on their way to do some sight-seeing. It was a day off from their clinical rotation at the Mendoza Pediatric Clinic at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center. Within minutes of stopping, their life-saving skills would be tested. 

It had been a day off in the midst of a two-week clinical rotation, as part of the GSN’s Doctor of Nursing Practice/Family Nurse Practitioner program. The two students were off to explore the Carlsbad Caverns, about two hours away, and had made a pit stop to get out of the rain. They were just making their way back out of the rest station, ready to get back on the road, when they heard a loud blast near the front of the building… Read more



Dmitriy Treyster (right) receives his Doctor of Medicine diploma from Navy Capt. (Dr.) Eric Elster, interim dean of USU’s Hebert School of Medicine, during the University’s commencement ceremony, May 15. (Photo by Thomas Balfour, Uniformed Services University)

8. Giving Back: Ukrainian Refugee Becomes an Army doctor

When Army Capt. (Dr.) Dmitriy Treyster was in elementary school, he and his family fled from Ukraine as refugees to the United States. 

It was a harrowing journey they risked to begin their lives again in a new country. Recently, Treyster completed another journey: from Army medic to physician assistant, and finally on May 15, he became a doctor. Treyster earned his M.D. as part of this year’s Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) graduating class.

For Treyster, motivation comes from a desire to help others and to give back to the country that gave his family a second chance. Read more



Christine Casey sits at a table

7. USU Alumna Reflects on Her Path to Healing Following 9/11

Our medical station inside the deli was a lesson in ingenuity and adaptability. The Snapple refrigerator stored vaccines at the perfect temperature of 4 degrees C.  The deli shelves with the plastic curtain strips were transformed into a makeshift medical supply cabinet neatly lined with bandages, tape, and medicines. Papered along the sides of the deli case were drawings gifted by students from an elementary school in New Jersey; this suburban community had lost several of its children’s parents in the collapsed towers. The artwork was sent to thank the medical responders. I was drawn to a picture of a block-shaped building with a medical symbol. High above was a crudely drawn face shedding tears in a cloud. Scrawled in primitive letters were the words, “Thank you much very.” 

The artist had signed her name “Rosie” and a bright green sticker affixed to the paper identified her school. Without hesitation (but admittedly with some trepidation), I snatched it up and showed it to my teammates. “I’m taking this home. I’m going to find that little girl and thank her instead.” Read more



Jackson Rudolph at a competition, yelling while holding a bo staff.

6. World Renowned Martial Artist Pursues Career as Military Doctor

Watching world-ranked Army 2nd Lt. Jackson Rudolph performing his show-stopping “bo staff” routine is nothing short of dazzling. His lightning speed, powerful strikes, spectacular hand work, precision spins, and that searing intensity in his eyes are all reasons why his performances attract international attention. Rudolph’s precision and meticulous training serve him in even greater ways as he works to become a physician through the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU).

A new first-year medical student, Rudolph has always known he wanted to be a doctor. Read more



A graphic of a silhouette of a woman's head with medical equipment surrounding it.

5. 24 Uniformed Services University Female Leaders Build their Places in History

Women have played fundamental roles throughout our nation’s history. They have been present at every level of society, fighting behind the scenes and in the forefront for their country and their beliefs. 

Since the Uniformed Services University first opened its doors to students in 1976, more than 3,100 women have earned degrees from its medical, nursing, dental, allied health and graduate education programs. Although there are many to choose from, here are 24 USU women leaders whose significant contributions to our country and whose accomplishments have established a solid place for women in American society. Read more



Ensign Elyse Bobczynski, the first U.S. Coast Guard-sponsored medical student at USU, participates in the first-year medical field practicum, MFP 101.  (Photo credit:  Courtesy of Ensign Elyse Bobczynski, USU)

4. For First U.S. Coast Guard-sponsored USU Medical Student, Persistence is Key to Success

U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduate Ensign Elyse Bobczynski has the distinction of being the first USCG-sponsored student to attend medical school at the Uniformed Services University. 

Bobczynski, who graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 2015, knew in her first year at the Academy that she wanted to become a physician. She says she was partially inspired to pursue medicine after suffering a head injury while in school there.  

“There were many complications with it, and I was in and out of the clinic for about 10 months. But it was this experience that helped me solidify my desire to help other people who were medically challenged,” Bobczynski recalls. Read more



Susan Orsega holds up a hand to take the oath of office.

3. President Biden Names USU Nursing Alumna as Acting U.S. Surgeon General

President Joe Biden is filling key administration positions, and many still await Senate confirmation, including Dr. Vivek Murthy, who served as U.S. Surgeon General under former President Barack Obama, and who has been nominated for the post again. Until confirmation hearings can be held and his nomination cleared, the President has appointed Rear Adm. Susan Orsega to bridge the gap as the nation’s top healthcare advisor.  Read more



A blood filter hooked up to a big machine 

2. COVID-stripping Blood Filters May Prove Effective Treatment for Sepsis, other Blood-borne Pathogens

Two new blood filters, proven to safely and quickly remove a range of pathogens, including COVID-19, from blood during pre-clinical testing, will now be further tested in patients to see how effective they are under a new cooperative agreement between the Uniformed Services University (USU) and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. (HJF). Read more



Dr. Althea Dixon-Green presents Army 2nd Lt. Alex Villahermosa with an award

1. Order of Military Medical Merit Presented to USU Medical Student

Army 2nd Lt. Alex Villahermosa recently became the first USU medical student to ever receive the Order of the Military Medical Merit, or O2M3, presented by the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) for significant contributions to the Regiment. A surprised and humbled Villahermosa was recognized for his achievements during a small ceremony at USU on Feb. 11.  

“I didn’t tell him that we were doing this today.  I have been stringing him along for the last year and he had no idea that this was going to happen,” said Dr. Althea Green-Dixon, director of USU’s Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program and director of Recruitment for USU’s School of Medicine. Read more