John B. Holcomb, M.D. receives the Jonathan Letterman Medical from the National Museum of Civil War Medicine
John B. Holcomb, M.D. (second from right) at the awards ceremony in Maryland.

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine recently recognized McGovern Medical School surgeon John B. Holcomb, M.D., with the Jonathan Letterman Medical Excellence Award for his achievement in battlefield medicine.

Holcomb, who redesigned the evacuation system for wounded soldiers and helped standardize battlefield medical care during his 23-year Army career, was recognized by the award that honors an individual who has made an exemplary contribution to civilian or military medicine – continuing in the legacy of Dr. Letterman.

Before joining the McGovern Medical School as the director for the Center for Translational Injury Research, professor and Jack H. Mayfield, M.D. Chair in the Department of Surgery, Col. Holcomb (Ret.) spent more than two decades as an active-duty Army surgeon and distinguished himself as an innovator in combat casualty care. During that time, he served in Somalia, where he was on the surgical team that delivered 48-hour nonstop surgical care to soldiers, inspiring the movie, “Black Hawk Down.”

He is recognized as “The Warrior’s Combat Surgeon” by the Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection and Critical Care and a soldier-surgeon-scientist with contributions to more than 460 publications and serving on the editorial boards of multiple medical journals.

“In researching the career of Col. Holcomb, it became obvious that he is indeed a ‘Living Letterman,” said David Price, executive director of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. “The New York Times published a profile on him in November of 2007 that chronicle his commitment to improving medical care for wounded warriors. He redesigned the evacuation system for wounded soldiers, he advocated for the joint Theater Trauma Registry to help standardize medical care and identify best practices, and he continued to work on new treatments to improve care – just like Major Jonathan Letterman did during the Civil War. There are few more deserving of this award than Col. Holcomb.”

Known as the “Father of Modern Battlefield Medicine,” Letterman’s work saved thousands of soldiers from dying on the battlefield during the Civil War. The Letterman Award is given to those that are leading innovative efforts in battle field care, prosthetic technology, improving patient outcomes of the severely wounded, or leveraging medical technology in news ways.

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine is a center for the preservation and research of the legacy of Civil War Medical innovation and humanitarianism. As a living institution, the museum utilizes artifacts, storytelling and the historic lessons derived from that era to educate the public and define the impact on today’s society.

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine manages three historic sites: the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland, the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum in Washington, DC, and the Pry House Field Hospital Museum on the Antietam National Battlefield.