"Optimizing Combat Casualty Care"
Dr. James E. K. Hildreth, Dean of the College of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Davis, (right) presents Victor A. Convertino Ph.D. with the “Outstanding Distinguished Graduate Alumni Award October 10.

Dr. James E. K. Hildreth, Dean of the College of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Davis, (right) presents Victor A. Convertino Ph.D. with the “Outstanding Distinguished Graduate Alumni Award October 10. Photo by UCD photographer Michelle Yee

Convertino awarded outstanding Distinguished Graduate Alumni Award by UCD

By Steven Galvan, Public Affairs Officer
U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research
4 NOV 2013

A physiologist/researcher from the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research (USAISR) at Joint Base San Antonio—Fort Sam Houston received the “Outstanding Distinguished Graduate Alumni Award” of the University of California, Davis (UCD) College of Biological Sciences. Victor A. Convertino, Ph.D., the tactical combat casualty care research task area program manager at the USAISR, accepted the award from Dr. James E. K. Hildreth, Dean of the College of Biological Sciences, during a ceremony at Davis, Calif. October 10.

“I am very humbled and honored to have received a career award from an institution that holds national rankings in the top 10 for public universities and in the top 50 in life sciences and medicine research,” said Convertino.

“But I’m most deeply touched by the respect that I’ve received by my colleagues. I hold a deep appreciation that no individual recognition accurately reflects a lifetime of support from family, friends, teachers, and colleagues who’ve made every accomplishment possible. This ‘lifetime team’ includes the support and contributions of past and present members of the tactical combat casualty care research task area here at the USAISR.”

Nomination letters written by Convertino’s colleagues to support this award stated that he was instrumental in the development of exercise countermeasures for astronauts and high-performance aircraft pilots with translational application to the care of special populations such as patients who are bed-ridden or wheelchair-restricted and that he was also involved in research that supported the development of advanced technologies for application in military medicine which are designed to “optimize combat casualty care” by providing early diagnosis and treatment of life-threatening low-tissue perfusion during out-of-hospital care.

During his opening remarks, Hildreth read an excerpt from a nomination letter written by former Director of NASA Life Sciences, Dr. Joan Vernikos: “One more point is worth raising about Dr. Convertino’s suitability for this recognition by the Alumni Association of the College of Biological Sciences. This has to do with his character and personality. Those who know Vic also know that ‘lazy’ is not a word in his vocabulary. I write here in the present rather than the past tense because Vic is not done discovering and we are the better for it. He is conscientious, hard working and fair to his support team and co-workers who all get generous credit and recognition for their work which he makes sure gets published promptly. These are notably traits that are not found often in our profession. He has helped raise his colleagues throughout his career to a higher level of productivity. His teams work hard, work well, have fun and in the process make exciting discoveries. That is what science is about and Dr. Convertino is such a scientist. UC Davis should be most proud to have produced not only an outstanding scientist, but indeed a scholar.”

Among the several combat casualty care research projects that Convertino has participated in since joining the USAISR in 1998 are the impedance threshold device (ITD) and compensatory reserve index (CRI) algorithm. The ITD increases low blood pressure in spontaneously breathing patients and the CRI algorithm utilizes the information obtained from a standard pulse oximeter and gauges whether a patient requires resuscitation or immediate medical attention.

In his acceptance speech, Convertino read an excerpt from an e-mail that he received from the chief of emergency medicine deployed at the 228th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq in June 2007. The note stated that a soldier with a gunshot wound to the pelvis was brought to the emergency room. The patient was in shock with low blood pressure and the medical staff was having problems finding a vein to start an IV. After an injection with a medication to raise the blood pressure failed, the medical staff placed a breathing value (ITD) which raised the blood pressure allowing an IV to get started. The patient was stabilized and sent to the operating room for surgery.

“I couldn’t think of anything that better defines the value of an education from the College of Biological Sciences at the University of California at Davis,” he said. “And the opportunity to serve our Nation’s military who defends the freedoms that we enjoy. I’m deeply grateful for such opportunities.”

Convertino first attended UCD in 1972 and earned a Master of Arts degree in Physical Education in 1974 with an emphasis in exercise physiology. He enrolled in the doctoral program in 1974 and continued his dissertation research while working full-time as a research associate in the Cardiology Division at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Physiology with a minor in Biochemistry in 1981.