Pioneering Female Faculty Build Foundation for 50 Years of Excellence at USU

Rosemary Borke

By Sharon Holland

This year, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding in 1972. 

In its earliest days, there were 7 female members out of the approximately 70 assigned faculty for the School of Medicine, USU’s first school. Since that time, and with the addition of three more colleges, the number of assigned women faculty members at the University has grown to more than 200, including a number of chairs and program directors. Many of those very early faculty members, among them a few who are profiled below, went on to become recognized national and international experts in their fields and have paved the way for the generations who have followed in their footsteps.  

Juanita Anders, Ph.D.

Dr. Juanita Anders
Dr. Juanita Anders (USU Photo)
Dr. Juanita Anders is one of the pioneers and leading experts in photobiomodulation research – light therapy that utilizes non-ionizing forms of light sources including LASERS, LEDs, and broadband light, in the visible and near infrared spectrum. Her specialty is peripheral and central nervous system injury and repair mechanisms, and light tissue interactions. 

Anders is the past president of the North American Association of Laser Therapy, a founding member of the International Academy of Laser Medicine and Surgery, and past president of the American Society of Lasers in Medicine and Surgery. She was appointed as a board member of the International Society of Lasers in Medicine and Surgery and currently serves as the director of the Optical Society of America Photobiomodulation Technical Group. Anders also serves on the Executive Councils and Scientific Advisory Boards of numerous international laser conferences.

A professor of Anatomy, Physiology and Genetics and professor of Neuroscience at USU, Anders has been on the medical school faculty since January 1983. She received her undergraduate degree in Biology from Wilkes University, her Ph.D. in Anatomy from the University of Maryland Medical School, and a Master of Science in Neuroanatomy from Penn State University.  She joined the National Institutes of Health in the Laboratory of Neuropathology and Neuroanatomical Sciences, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke before coming to USU.  

Anders helped the Doctor of Nursing Practice program develop an education and credentialing curriculum in photobiomodulation therapy as an adjunct professor at Shepherd University in West Virginia. She also founded the American Society of Lasers in Medicine and Surgery’s Women in Energy-Based Devices group in 2015 to highlight the excellence of women involved in ASLMS, to address the challenges women may confront in academic and other professional settings, to advance networking and training opportunities for ASLMS women, to educate ASLMS members about gender-bias, and to encourage young women to choose STEM careers especially those involving energy-based technologies.

She is a Senior Editor of Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, Associate Editor of Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, Associate Editor of Lasers in Medical Science, and on the editorial board of Physiotherapy Practice and Research and has published more than 70 peer reviewed articles.

Regina Armstrong, Ph.D. 

Dr. Regina Armstrong
Dr. Regina Armstrong (USU Photo)
Dr. Regina Armstrong is professor and chair of the Anatomy, Physiology, and Genetics department at USU. She joined the USU faculty in November 1991 and holds secondary appointments in the Neuroscience and the Molecular and Cell Biology graduate programs. 

Armstrong earned her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience in 1982 from the University of Rochester, followed by her PhD in Neuroscience in 1987 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, where she was awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship during her graduate work. She was a postdoctoral fellow for four years at the National Institutes of Health before moving to USU.  

Armstrong served as director of the USU Neuroscience Graduate Program from 2002-2008, receiving the faculty award for Outstanding Graduate Biomedical Educator from the School of Medicine in 2002.  She stepped down in 2008 to establish the University’s Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine (CNRM), a collaborative intramural research program with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  The CNRM focus is pre-clinical through clinical research to promote recovery from traumatic brain injury and to improve psychological health of service members. Armstrong served as the director of the CNRM from 2008-2017 and then became department chair in 2020.  She also teaches in the first year medical student module on neuroscience and behavior, and in several graduate student courses. 

Armstrong has been elected to council and executive committees for multiple local and national professional societies, including the Society for Neuroscience, the Association of Neuroscience Departments and Programs, and the American Society for Neurochemistry. She has served in research review and planning roles for the National Institutes of Health, the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the National Science Foundation, Veterans Affairs, Children’s National Research Institute, and others.

Her laboratory focuses on mechanisms of damage and repair in the brain and spinal cord. Research efforts in her laboratory have been continuously funded through peer-reviewed competitive awards from the NIH, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Department of Defense for 27 years at USU. Armstrong’s research program has focused on cellular and molecular mechanisms of neuroregeneration.  Her research team contributed to improving neuroimaging detection of white matter damage in the brain. Their work has identified promising approaches for protecting axons and repairing myelin, which may lead to therapies for patients with multiple sclerosis and those who have experienced a traumatic brain injury. 

Emma L. Bockman, Ph.D.

Dr. Emma L. Bockman (USU Photo)
In her relatively short life, Dr. Emma Bockman made a very big impact.  A Missouri native, Bockman graduated from the University of Missouri School of Education in Columbia with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1967, and followed three years later with a Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of Missouri School of Medicine.  Bockman’s interest in cardiovascular physiology led her to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Physiology at the University of Virginia, where she became interested in the role of metabolites in the control of blood flow to muscle, in particular skeletal muscle.  

Bockman left Virginia in 1975 for Louisiana State University, where she served as an assistant professor of Physiology for the next four years.  

She was recruited to USU in 1979, where she was a beloved and respected associate professor on the Department of Physiology faculty.  Her exceptional abilities as an educator, researcher and author were recognized both within the University and in the scientific community.  

Bockman passed away at the age of 39 in 1985.  In her honor, the Emma L. Bockman Memorial Fund was established at the Henry M. Jackson for the Advancement of Military Medicine, which bestows an annual award to graduate students in her name to keep her academic ideals and quest for knowledge alive.

Rosemary C. Borke, Ph.D.

Dr. Rosemary C. Borke (USU Photo)
Dr. Rosemary C. Borke (USU Photo)
Dr. Rosemary C. Borke is a professor emerita and former vice chair for Education in the Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Genetics. She joined the USU faculty in 1979, and served until her retirement in 2010.  

Borke was an outstanding educator of medical and graduate students, and an innovative leader in
development and implementation of curricula as a model for faculty leadership at the departmental and university level.  She is an internationally-recognized expert in the area of peripheral nerve injury and repair. 

For two and a half decades, Borke served as a course director for neuroanatomy at USU. She was the driving force behind the three-phased progressive integration of neuroanatomy with other related basic science disciplines, and designed the course to include clinical faculty in the laboratory portions of the courses and introduced many correlations. 

Borke received more than 60 teaching, course leadership and administration awards while at USU. In fact, she received more teaching awards than any faculty member in the history of USU. She is the only faculty member to be awarded the Civilian Educator Award in the USU School of Medicine three different years. She was selected for a second Carol Johns Award from the Board of Regents and was  the recipient of the initial USU School of Medicine Innovation in Teaching Award for the pre-clinical courses. 

Borke's accomplishments in education and research advanced the reputation of USU. She authored two laboratory manuals: CNS Laboratory Manual and Dissection of the Human Head and Neck.  She developed a Neurocytology slide series, a Neuroanatomy/Radiology computer module and a Head and Neck and Gross Anatomy/Radiology Teaching computer module and student self-study computerized review modules.  These teaching materials have been used by thousands of USU students, and medical, dental and other students, and residents around the country.  Borke served on 26 different University committees and more than 10 departmental committees. She served for multiple years and, because of her strong leadership skills, she frequently served as chairperson of many of these committees.  She was actively involved in LCME accreditation at USU, and has extensive experience in the LCME standards of compliance for functions and structure of curriculum at medical schools. 

Based on her international reputation as an outstanding educator and researcher, Borke was invited to serve as a reviewer for medical textbooks for Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Publishers, Novus Publications, Appleton & Lange Publishers, and Fitzgerald Publishers and for numerous scientific journals. 

In addition to her teaching efforts, Borke maintained an active research program with continued DOD and private foundation funding, and served as a member of the Maryland Anatomical Board for many years.

Cinda J. Helke, Ph.D. 

Dr. Cinda J. Helke
Dr. Cinda J. Helke (USU Photo)
After a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Cinda J. Helke joined the Department of Pharmacology at USU in 1980 as one of seven young assistant professors and immediately became the yardstick by which to measure success. Quickly, she established herself as an instrumental force in the growth of not only the department, but the university as a whole.

Helke was a native of Iowa. She graduated from Creighton University School of Pharmacy and, in 1978, received her Ph.D. in pharmacology from Georgetown University. Early in her career, it was obvious that she had the qualities that define a successful teacher, scientist, and trusted member of the faculty. After only four years at USU, her accomplishments were recognized with promotion to associate professor with tenure and four years later she became a full professor. 

Helke made significant research contributions to understanding how the nervous system influences cardiovascular function in health and in diseases such as diabetes. She published more than 120 research papers and book chapters, presented her research work in numerous seminars nationally and internationally, and her research was continuously supported by grants from NIH for more than 22 years. 

Despite her busy schedule, Helke’s commitment to faculty development, student education, and issues related to women and science stood the test of time and never wavered. As director of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience and then Associate Dean for Graduate Education, Helke was a constant champion for the needs of graduate students, a driving force for providing excellence in their training.  She promoted the growth, diversity, and modernization of the graduate programs, revitalizing them into programs that continue to reach new heights. The success of these programs has benefited all USU faculty by providing access to a talented pool of graduate students and enriching the academic life of the university.

Helke’s record of accomplishment and contribution to furthering the welfare and excellence of the USU faculty, promotion of outstanding educational programs for students, and advancement of the reputation of the university awarded her the illustrious Carol J. Johns Medal in 2004, and no fewer than six "Outstanding Instructor" awards from her students.  

However, her commitment to medical education was more important than any award. This was exemplified by Helke’s appointment as a member of the USMLE Step 1 Test Material Development and National Board of Medical Examiners Pharmacology Test Committee, which is exalted by its status as a group for only the most highly qualified; appointments such as Helke’s are universally recognized as a sign of educational excellence.

Helke served on nearly every USU and F. Edward H├ębert School of Medicine committee of significance during her tenure, including Research Proposal Merit Review, Student Admissions, and the Committee on Appointments, Promotions and Tenure, with one year as chair. Helke also held professional memberships including the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, where she served as Secretary-Treasurer, the Society for Neuroscience, the International Society of Autonomic Neuroscience, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Medical Colleges Graduate Research and Education Group (GREAT).

She was a member of Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist church, where she was a member of the adult choir and served as chair of the Music Committee. Helke’s love of music and the performing arts also led her to sing with the Treble Tones, and to sing and tour with the VA-National Medical Musical Group. She was a member of the Kennedy Center Circles, the National Symphony Orchestra Association, and Strathmore Hall Arts Center.   

Although Dr. Helke passed away on June 13, 2004, her legacy continues to live on at USU. 

Sharon Juliano, Ph.D.

Dr. Sharon L. Juliano
Dr. Sharon L. Juliano (USU Photo)
Dr. Sharon L. Juliano is a professor in the departments of Anatomy, Physiology, and Genetics, Neuroscience, and Molecular and Cell Biology at USU. Juliano received her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and conducted a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She additionally completed a senior fellowship (Poste Orange) in Creteil, France.  

Juliano joined the USU faculty in 1985 and has been prolific during her time at the University, serving as president of the USU faculty senate in 1993, and as director of the Neuroscience graduate program from 2012 to 2019.  She is currently serving as a member of the Neuroscience executive committee.  In addition, she was involved in the development of the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine and served on its leadership for several years. Despite the numerous leadership positions Juliano has found herself in throughout her career, she remains steadfastly involved in teaching both medical and graduate students. She has been extramurally funded for more than 30 years. Her recent scientific work centers on the effects of blast and associated injuries on the brain. 

Juliano is also active in the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO), and has organized workshops and courses in Africa, South America, and Eastern Europe. Annually, she coordinates a workshop in neuroscience teaching (the Teaching Tools Workshops in Africa) for young African neuroscientists that has been held across the African continent in nine countries. 

Outside of her work with USU, Juliano was also the chair of the Committee on Animals in Research for the Society for Neuroscience and the director of the US-Canada Regional Committee of IBRO. She sits on several editorial boards, and participates in many advisory committees and study sections including those for the Institute of Medicine, the NIH, DoD, and IBRO. Juliano also sits on the board for Women in Neuroscience in Nigeria and the advisory board of the Society for Neuroscience in Africa (SONA). In 2020, SONA honored her with an induction into the SONA Hall of Fame. 

Juliano’s many accomplishments have also been followed by countless honors and distinctions including the Flexnor Award for Outstanding Research, the Cajal Club Cortical Explorer Award, the Simpson Award (given by iiFAR), the Distinguished Service Medal, the Wu Award for Excellence in Research, the Society for Neuroscience Award for Education in Neuroscience, and the Outstanding Service Medal. 

Ildy M. Katona, M.D.

Retired Navy Captain (Dr.) Ildy M. Katona
Retired Navy Captain (Dr.) Ildy M. Katona (USU Photo)
Retired Navy Captain (Dr.) Ildy M. Katona stepped down as chair of the Department of Pediatrics at USU in 2018 after more than two decades in the position. 

Katona, who is board certified in pediatrics, pediatric rheumatology, and allergy-immunology, spent more than 32 years on active duty in the Navy. In 1984, she established a tri-Service pediatric rheumatology network in the Washington, D.C. area that served the children of Department of Defense personnel for the eastern half of the United States and Europe for more than two decades. She was recruited to USU by then-Army Col. (Dr.) Errol R. Alden, second chair of the Department of Pediatrics, in 1985 and with Alden’s support, she successfully integrated the pediatric rheumatology experience into the training programs in general practice, pediatrics, and rheumatology, and taught and trained countless medical students, residents, and fellow physicians in pediatrics and rheumatology.

Katona was later named chair of USU’s Department of Pediatrics by then-Dean Val G. Hemming. Over the next two decades she doubled the department’s size, and worked tirelessly to build its reputation for excellence in clinical and academic military medicine. In 2012, she was recognized by the Uniformed Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, with its Outstanding Service Award. This is the highest lifetime award given to uniformed officers in pediatrics.

In recognition of her academic achievements and dedication and enthusiasm towards teaching, she was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society (Maryland Gamma Chapter) and the prestigious American Pediatric Society. Under her leadership, the Department of Pediatrics' third-year clerkship won the Ambulatory Pediatric Association's national teaching award in 2002 for excellence in educational innovation and standardization. 

Katona earned numerous awards for her research efforts towards understanding of cytokine regulation of immune responses. She is an elected member of the American Pediatric Society and a past chair of the Rheumatology Sub-board of the American Board of Pediatrics. She also served a full term on the Pediatric Residency Review Committee of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

Sheila M. Muldoon, M.D.

Dr. Sheila Muldoon
Dr. Sheila Muldoon (USU Photo)
Dr. Sheila Muldoon joined the USU Anesthesiology faculty in 1977.  An internationally recognized expert in malignant hyperthermia, Muldoon earned her medical degree from the University College of Dublin National University College of Medicine in 1963, and later went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where she conducted research on the pharmacology and physiology of smooth muscle.  Ten years after her arrival at USU, she was appointed chair of the Department of Anesthesiology.  

In the early 1980s, Muldoon established a collaboration with the Anesthesiology department at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington D.C. to offer diagnostic MH testing to non-military families in the Washington area. Though Muldoon stepped down from her position as chair of the USU Anesthesia department in 2001 to devote more time to the problems of MH, the collaboration continues to this day.

While at USU, Muldoon found that the military was concerned about the implications of the diagnosis of MH in military personnel, and in part, this spurred her fascination to take a closer look into the subject.  She established a cadre of excellent clinical and laboratory scientists at USU to work with her on the problems of MH at every level. She founded the Malignant Hyperthermia Diagnostic Laboratory at USU and was active with the Malignant Hyperthermia Association of the U.S. (MHAUS) for many years.  Muldoon’s contributions to the understanding and management of Malignant Hyperthermia over the past four decades have earned her a huge debt of gratitude from patients, clinicians, and scientists alike.  

As a longstanding member of the board and former Vice President for Scientific Affairs for the MHAUS, Muldoon has been a beacon to those interested in researching MH, guiding, supporting, and training many clinicians and scientists who would go on to make their own contributions to the field of MH and medicine as a whole. She has also served on the MH Hotline for 20 years, and has been a strong supporter of the activities and goals of the North American MH Registry, helping to guide many of the important studies that have emanated from the Registry.

The Malignant Hyperthermia Diagnostic Laboratory that Muldoon established at USU has not only sponsored investigations in the molecular genetics of MH and described the relationship between unusual clinical presentations of the disorder and the pathophysiology of the disorder – the center has also performed muscle biopsy diagnostic MH testing for those in the military since the early 1980s. The laboratory is one of only a few in North America that has worked to perfect the muscle biopsy diagnostic test, performed original research in animals who are MH susceptible, explored the molecular genetics of MH, as well as the cellular biochemistry of the disorder, all through the leadership of Muldoon. In addition, she has authored close to 100 original publications in peer-reviewed literature, organized educational symposia, and has lectured widely on MH.

In recognition of her contributions to the Uniformed Services University and to the promotion of excellence in medical education and research, Dr. Muldoon was awarded the prestigious Carol J. Johns medal by the university.  

Alison D. O'Brien, Ph.D.

Dr. Alison O'Brien
Dr. Alison O'Brien (USU Photo)
Alison O'Brien, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized microbiologist, who is the former chair and professor of the USU Department of Microbiology and Immunology. She is a world-renowned expert in bacterial toxins and microbial pathogenesis. 

O’Brien joined the USU faculty in July 1978. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Davis in Biology and Bacteriology in 1969, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. She then trained as a medical technologist for one year and worked for two years in bacteriology, chemistry, and hematology sections of diagnostic laboratories. She completed her Ph.D. in pathogenic bacteriology from the Department of Medical Microbiology at The Ohio State University in 1976, where she was awarded graduate student research awards from the College of Letters and Science in 1975 and 1976. Her graduate research project focused on the role of the Staphylococcus aureus delta toxin in the pathogenesis of staphylococcal enterocolitis. 

In 1976, Dr. O'Brien was awarded a National Research Council postdoctoral fellowship to study a newly- described toxin of Shigella. Her project was conducted under the sponsorship of Dr. Samuel Formal at the Walter Reed Army Institute, Washington, D.C.  That led to O’Brien joining the USU faculty as an assistant professor of Microbiology at USU).  She was promoted to associate professor in 1981, and professor in 1985. In 1996, O’Brien became Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. 

O'Brien's research areas included the pathogenic mechanisms of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, analysis of the Cytotoxic Necrotizing Factor (CNF) of uropathogenic E. coli, and attempts to develop immunoprophylaxtic antibodies against Bacillus anthracis spores. Her research was funded by agencies such as National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Agriculture, and the Agency for International Development. 

O’Brien served as the editor-in-chief of one of the major journals in pathogenesis, Infection and Immunity, and as a member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods. She was a member of the NIH Bacteriology and Mycology Study Section 1 and the Chair of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory Panel on Vaccines and Related Projects. She previously served as chair of the American Society for Microbiology division B on microbial pathogenesis, and was President of the ASM, the world’s largest scientific society of individuals interested in the microbiological sciences, from 2008-2009, as well as the Association of Medical Microbiology and Immunology Chairs.  

O’Brien was actively involved in teaching and mentoring graduate students, research associates, and postdoctoral fellows at USU and other institutions, and co-led the USU School of Medicine curriculum reform, “Molecules to Medicine”, effort.  She has received numerous awards for her teaching and research, including the USU Civilian Educator of the Year Award in 1998, the Carol Johns Medal for Outstanding USU Faculty Member in 2006, the Cinda Helke Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Advocacy in 2006, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases MERIT Award, 2008-2018, the Henry Wu Award for Excellence in Basic Research in 2009, the USU Alpha Omega Alpha Award in 2011, and the USU Outstanding Biomedical Graduate Educator Award in 2012.  As a result of groundbreaking E. coli research and patent, O’Brien received the Federal Laboratory Consortium’s Technology Transfer Award in 2015.  

Jeannette E. South-Paul, MD

Dr. Jeannette E. South-Paul
Dr. Jeannette E. South-Paul (USU Photo)
In 1973, in order to pay for her medical school expenses at the University of Pittsburgh, Jeanette E. South-Paul joined ROTC, the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps. Twenty-two years later, Colonel (Dr.) Jeanette South-Paul became the first African American to serve as chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the Uniformed Services University, a position she held for six years.  In 2001, she once again blazed trails as the first woman and first African American to become chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

Throughout her career, both in the military and at the University of Pittsburgh, South-Paul's goal has remained constant: "To help in improving the health status of disadvantaged people of color." With this in mind, South-Paul did postgraduate training in family medicine at the Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Georgia and later at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. A fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a diplomate of the American Board of Family Practice, South-Paul began teaching at USU in 1983. 

Rising through the military and teaching ranks, South-Paul concentrated her research and writing on the benefits of exercise, on cultural and racial sensitivity in medicine, and on providing better medical care to underserved populations.

"This country has an emerging majority population that doesn't look like white middle America,” says South-Paul. “If we don't attend to that, we are going to lose that segment of the population, who, by the way, now make up greater than 50 percent of new entrants into the workforce."

Seeing the medical imperative to provide comprehensive and compassionate care for all patients, South-Paul notes that "more than 90 percent of healthcare spending in this country goes to people with less than two years to live, because we can provide incredibly high-tech services to them.” 

Yet, she adds, “if we could concentrate more on prevention, we would save money in the health system. As we structure our curricula in medical schools and training programs, we need to attend to issues of community health as well as individual health so we can keep people from more serious conditions." South-Paul believes that family physicians are uniquely positioned to make that change.

South-Paul has been given both the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) Distinguished Service Medal and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Exemplary Teaching Award. In her teaching and administrative roles at both the University of Pittsburgh and USU, and through her affiliations with the AAFP and the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, South-Paul has devoted her career to improving health care for the underserved. In the process, she has bettered health care for all Americans.