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Dome - Q&A with Retired Maj. Gen. James Gilman

Dome April 2014

Q&A with Retired Maj. Gen. James Gilman

Date: April 1, 2014

Learn more about the MVHI at its website at James Gilman can be contacted by email at
Learn more about the MVHI at its website at James Gilman can be contacted by email at

Led by retired Maj. Gen. James Gilman, the Military and Veterans Health Institute applies the collective resources of Johns Hopkins Medicine to solve the health and health care problems of service members, veterans and their families. Dome recently sat down with Gilman to learn about the progress he’s made since taking on the new leadership role last May.

What is the main function of the Military and Veterans Health Institute (MVHI)?

Right now, the main driver is to aid our researchers so that they can better understand and navigate the unique complexities involved in pursuing Department of Defense (DOD) funding opportunities. DOD had a research budget of $1.2 billion last year. Johns Hopkins researchers do exceedingly well with NIH grants. They do not do well with DOD cooperative agreements.

How are DOD grants different from NIH grants?

NIH funds discovery science—bright ideas. The DOD has a very specific problem set. The top priorities include mental health, traumatic brain injury, how to care for patients with big composite tissue injuries that result from improvised explosive devices and how to protect people from improvised explosive devices. Many of our talented researchers think you go after a DOD grant the same way you go after an NIH grant, and that’s just not true.

How are you helping to bridge that gap in understanding?

Within weeks of getting here, I had people asking for help in getting DOD funding. My response was always to say that first, you have to find out what they’re interested in, and you have to see if you are interested in doing research that impacts those areas. It all starts with knowing what they are interested in. As a result, we created the Johns Hopkins DOD Medical Research Playbook. The playbook has been distributed to departmental leadership, and researchers can contact me if they’d like a copy.

Any successes so far?

There are a couple of projects at the Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering. One project is working on a better means to control the sweat inside the socket of a prosthetic limb, and the institute is the project sponsor. Another project, with the Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design, is related to better controlling junctional hemorrhage, or bleeding from the areas at the junction of the trunk and its appendages.

What is the MVHI doing outside of research?

We completed a pilot educational program at the request of the Association of American Medical Colleges. The goal of the program is to help civilian primary care providers take a better medical history from people who have been on military deployment—reservists and veterans (see story below). There’s a lot to be done to improve the care we provide to the brave men and women who serve our country.