Foresight to confront hurdles without a blueprint is a talent few possess. Retired Army Col. Chuck Scoville has that vision, which is part of the reason why he’s a finalist for a 2012 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, also known as the “Sammie.”
While Scoville was still in uniform in 2001, then-U.S. Army Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. James B. Peake, charged him and his colleagues with determining how to prepare military medicine to care for U.S. troops returning from war with traumatic limb loss. At the time, Scoville served as the surgeon general’s chief physical therapy consultant.
“General Peake asked what we would do in response of going into Afghanistan and the number of amputees we might have and how we would care for these individuals,” Scoville recalled. The answer led to the development of the Military Advance Training Center (MATC) at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), which moved to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) when WRAMC integrated with the former National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) last summer, forming WRNMMC.
“I took my sports medicine background and applied that to our wounded warriors, who are tactical athletes,” explained Scoville, who now serves as chief of Amputee Patient Care Service at WRNMMC. More than 1,500 injured service members have received care in the MATC, with many returning to active duty thanks to Scoville and his team.
“It was Chuck’s drive and vision that really changed the paradigm for the way we rehab amputee patients,” said Dave Laufer, chief of orthotics and prosthetics services at WRNMMC. “Wounded warriors are being treated now like tactical athletes as opposed to older amputees,” he added. Today, wounded warrior care includes the services of multi-disciplinary teams and high-tech, computerized equipment and systems.
A native of Ohio, Scoville’s training in sports medicine and physical rehabilitation began at Ohio University, where he earned a degree in physical education. He was a substitute teacher before joining the Army for what he thought would be a short commitment.
“I had plans to go to Duke University and work in sports medicine,” Scoville said. Those plans changed. Earning his master’s degree in physical education exercise physiology through the Army/Baylor University Physical Therapy Program, he then served in the Army for 29 years, with stints as a physical therapist in Berlin, Hawaii, the Pentagon and the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where he proposed and established a sports-based physical therapy program.
Retiring from the Army in 2003, following his assignment in the Army surgeon general’s office, the Army asked him to take a civilian job to oversee the amputee care program at WRAMC. Scoville said he was honored to be considered for the job. “It kind of evolved based on my experience with the administrative work with the surgeon general’s office,” he explained.
Scoville has watched the amputee care program grow from those early years to what it has become today, incorporating his experience in sports medicine and physical rehabilitation with traditional medical care.
“We’ve made a lot of changes with prosthetic devices and advances with our treatment of the pain associated with limb loss [known as phantom limb pain] and advances in the rehabilitation,” Scoville said. “The work we are doing with mind interface research are advancing on a fairly rapid basis and we are getting closer to a mind/machine interface. We are getting closer to powering prosthetic devices so they do perform closer to what the physiological human body performs.”
“He gives folks new hope that they can function and strive for independence,” said Brig. Gen. Joseph Carvalho Jr., commander of the Army’s Northern Regional Medical Command. “Chuck will go down as one of the leaders in the care of amputees.”
Scoville downplays his role, and attributes Walter Reed Bethesda’s success in rehabilitation to his colleagues and the wounded warriors themselves. “A lot of my job is to make sure everyone has what they need, and then stay out of the way,” he said in a Washington Post interview. He said, “[Wounded Warriors] do things they never did before and reach more high level activities than in the past.”
The Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal that Scoville is a finalist for is considered an “Oscar” of American government service. The medals have been awarded annually since 2002. Samuel J. Heyman, an American businessman and philanthropist, founded and chaired the Washington-based Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a mission of inspiring public service. He died at the age of 70 in 2009, but the award which bears his name continues to annually salute the accomplishments of federal employees. Honorees are chosen based on “their commitment and innovation, in addition to the effect of their work on addressing the needs of the nation,” according to Partnership for Public Service officials.
Honorees are chosen from nominations collected each winter, and narrowed down to 32 finalists announced mid-spring of each year. The 32 finalists are assessed, and from their ranks, nine awardees are selected by early fall. Medal categories include federal employee of the year; call to service; career achievement; citizen services; homeland security; justice and law enforcement; management excellence; national security and international affairs; and science and environment. Scoville is a finalist in the national security and international affairs category.
This year’s annual award ceremony and gala will be held Sept. 13 in Washington, D.C.