Suter receives Army’s 2016 Mologne Award

By Ron Durham

Dr. Robert E. Suter (right) receives the Lewis Aspey Mologne Award from Maj. Gen. William Lee, Commander of the 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support), at Camp As Sayliyah.
Dr. Robert E. Suter (right) receives the Lewis Aspey Mologne Award from Maj. Gen. William Lee, Commander of the 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support), at Camp As Sayliyah.

Dr. Robert E. Suter, Professor of Emergency Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center who also serves as a Colonel in the Army Reserve, has received the prestigious 2016 Lewis Aspey Mologne Award, the Army surgeon general’s award for military academic excellence.

The Mologne Award is given annually to one Colonel whom the selection committee feels most emulates Maj. Gen. Lewis Mologne by achieving a balance of excellence in both military medical leadership and academic excellence.

“It is incredibly humbling,” said Dr. Suter of receiving the Mologne Award. “Army medicine has a history of being at the forefront of scientific advancement for over 150 years and so to be selected as the top military academician is really more than I could have ever hoped for, and is a tribute to all of those who have supported and collaborated with me over the past 30 years.”

Maj. Gen. Mologne was one of the first graduates of West Point allowed to attend medical school and was leading Walter Reed Army Medical Center at the time of his death in 1988. During Maj. Gen. Mologne’s 34 years of active military service, he earned numerous decorations – including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, and Military Parachutist Badge – and held the “A” designator in surgery for professional excellence and the Founders Medal of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States. The clinic at West Point also is named after him.

Dr. Suter, normally assigned to the 2nd Medical Brigade out of San Pablo, California, is deployed through July at Camp As Sayliyah in Doha, Qatar, where he is Commander of the Theater Enabling Medical Command. His territory includes 14 countries in the Middle East, South and Central Asia, and the West Coast of Africa.

“My headquarters is responsible for coordinating all health care activities, including medical, surgical, dental, behavioral, veterinary, preventive medicine, and environmental health protection services for well over 130,000 people,” Dr. Suter said. “Of course, our highest profile job is combat casualty care, which fits well into my experience as an emergency physician.”

Dr. Suter, who graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and received his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and M.H.A. degrees from Des Moines University in Iowa, has been a member of the UT Southwestern faculty since 2002. He is past President of both the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the International Federation for Emergency Medicine. Previous recognitions include the Founders Award, EMRA’s highest recognition of service to emergency medicine and emergency medicine residents (1998), and the ACEP’s John G. Wiegenstein Leadership Award, a national honor bestowed for outstanding contributions to the College (2009).

“My interest in emergency medicine grew from the experience of being injured as a child, having family members injured, and seeing the benefit of the calm application of knowledge in preventing suffering and death,” Dr. Suter said. “Given the critical role of emergency medicine in trauma care, it also fit well with my interest in military medicine with its focus on the treatment of war injuries.”

While UT Southwestern provides faculty members state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, Dr. Suter and his military staff must adapt to much more difficult conditions while serving overseas.

“We have to accept austere facilities and conditions for our treatment facilities, with the biggest limitations beyond that being backup and the number of people available to do the job,” Dr. Suter said. “The isolated 10-person half of a Forward Surgical Team might get 12 severely injured patients during a sandstorm, with no way to evacuate them and no way to get more trained help. You deal with it. Luckily we are blessed with incredibly dedicated and skillful professionals who overcome these obstacles to make sure that America’s best get America’s best care.”

Primarily focused on the treatment of injured military personnel, Dr. Suter and his team also are tasked with educating and training the medical community in host countries.

“In addition to direct provision of services, a big part of our mission here is working with our host nation and other governments to improve the skills and capabilities of partner nation physicians, surgeons, nurses, medics, and other providers,” Dr. Suter said. “This is, of course, very rewarding, and as an educator, I know that it will pay great dividends. These events sometimes are ‘closed’ military training, but also can be traditional CME conferences, such as the one that we sponsored with the Italians for Afghan physicians and surgeons. I look forward to bringing all of these perspectives back to share with residents and students.”