The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command is pleased to announce the arrival of Rear Admiral Bruce A. Doll, new deputy commander for the USAMRMC and Fort Detrick. Doll comes to the USAMRMC team from the Naval Medical Research and Development Command where he served as commander.
A graduate of Colgate University, Doll began his career in the Navy service when he was competitively selected for the 1925I program and was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy reserve. He cites many contributing factors throughout his years in the Navy that have led to, what he considers to be, a wonderful military career.
It all started with a childhood spent near the Hudson Bay in New York City. Doll enjoyed all aspects of life on the water; whether it be in it, under it, or sailing on top of it. It was no surprise then that, after finishing college, he looked next to the military.
Following graduation from the State University of New York at Buffalo, School of Dentistry, with a Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1981, Doll sought out opportunities that would afford him the ability to treat patients in any number of places throughout the world; specifically, in support of service members.
Military service was, after all, in Dolls blood, and a passion for volunteerism ran deep as well. Doll spent a great deal of his formative years serving in the Boy Scouts and other volunteer organizations, and the thought of joining the military was always, “simmering in the background,” admitted Doll.
Doll looked to the Navy first, and perhaps because of his love of the water, looked no further.
His early Navy career ran the gamut. Doll served alongside the Marines aboard ship as well as in a Navy facility; each new tour presenting its own unique challenges. However, without challenge there would be no achievement, and with each new tour also came plenty of enjoyment. Doll immersed himself in each of his duty stations, seeking new opportunities along the way. He completed explosive ordinance disposal, learned to sail at the Naval Academy, and learned to fly at China Lake, all thanks to the interactions and relationships built with colleagues and patients along the way.
“What I found was that, while the places were interesting, it was the people that made the experience both enjoyable and memorable,” said Doll. “Those were the individuals I would interact with most, whether it be treating them or serving alongside them. One of the nice things about health care is being able to treat everyone in a community. I was able to meet and interact with everyone.”
Doll didn’t stop there, taking full advantage of the priority that the Navy places on professional development. Throughout his career he frequently returned to academia, either to further his own education or in an effort to teach others all that he had learned. After 10 successful years in the Navy, Doll experienced a defining moment in his career; he began working with a mentor, who exposed him to the world of research. Shortly after his transition to reserve status, Doll chose to pursue a Doctorate of Philosophy in Cell and Molecular Biology.
“I still had the ability to have the executive experience [from the Navy], but I was adding to it on the research side,” explained Doll.
Once he had earned his doctorate, he remained on reserve duty in order to teach and conduct research.
In the midst of his teaching career, the U.S. campaign in Iraq and Afghanistan began. Doll redeployed to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center where he was charged with the care of injured Soldiers returning from the battlefield. He cites this period of time as one of the most humbling experiences of his military career; fondly recalling the pride he experienced from those he encountered.
“When you’re around these individuals who have given such a huge measure of themselves in so many ways, the motivation to do right by them and to say ‘I am glad I can be directly involved, but I am still just supporting you...you were the one out there fighting,’ it is a wonderful experience in terms of how it humbles a person,” Doll reflected.
Almost serendipitously, around this same time the Navy elected to stand up a more robust research community, one which Doll himself was selected to join in October 2012.
Excited to assume the position of deputy commander here at USAMRMC, Doll believes his past experiences and former roles have prepared him well for this position, and he is eager to begin his work with the command. Doll will not only serve as the deputy commander, but will also be stepping in as the new director of research and development for the Defense Health Agency.
“It is my privilege to also serve as the director of the newly established DHA, Directorate for Research, Development, and Acquisition,” said Doll. “I can’t think of a better job, and I get to work with all of these great people. For me, I am at the top of the mountain... and I didn’t even see the mountain there two years ago.”
First and foremost, Doll says his top priority as the deputy commander of USAMRMC is supporting the commanding general. Beyond that, he is focused on the collaborative spirit of the military.
“Right now, we have three services; each with a research capability of varying sizes and different focuses,” said Doll.
Doll is aware that bringing all of these individuals and independent resources together may take some “elbow grease.”
“That unified focus on an operational mission and on a way to take what our current capabilities are and make them more efficient, that is what will result in improved responsiveness to the requests from our Warfighters,” explained Doll. “Whether it be improved therapies, improved performance, or ways to minimize and/or mitigate disease, these men and women going into theater face threats that when you are sitting at home you don’t have to worry about. Unifying effort but preserving equities, those things that each service does well... I’m sensitive to that challenge.”
In his quest to achieve the goals designated to the deputy commander role, Doll looks forward to working with the countless experienced and committed people within this command.
How does he plan to achieve these goals?
“Well, spelling out every acronym would be an enormous help,” he said with a laugh, but in all seriousness, keeping the lines of communication open and simplified is one of the most important steps to getting the MRMC story out and getting it right.
“Getting the message right means I understand what the people are saying and I can now act as their advocate,” said Doll. “In the role that I have, the means by which we keep the communication lines open is key to what I feel is a key responsibility of mine; to be an advocate for our interests, both tri-service and MRMC alike.”
As far as his new role with DHA is concerned, the same concept applies.
“DHA is new, which means it is subject to rumors,” Doll explained. “Part of my goal is to continually communicate the story. It is a story of success and it is a story of where we are headed. DHA is a part of where we are headed and so it is important to make sure that the story is being told and that the message I am sending is the one that’s being received, bar acronyms.”
Throughout Dolls multiple assignments during his Navy career, he notes how fortunate he feels to have been blessed with such a variety of opportunities and enjoyments that came along with each duty station. While the places on the map were different, he used each new assignment as an opportunity to build on past experiences and broaden his mind.
The one constant in all his years of service: the people.
“Good people, that’s the bottom line of my entire experience,” said Doll, “and whatever the challenges may be there is a way through it if you have good people by your side.”
“I look around the table and there are some very experienced and talented people here,” Doll continued. “Some people are new as is often a result of tour changes, but no matter what, the attitude is that ‘we can do this.’”