Woodson confirmed as Pentagon's top physician

Stalled nomination clears after lifting of Senate hold placed in August over abortion language in Defense bill.

The Senate on Dec. 22 confirmed the appointment of Dr. Jonathan Woodson as assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs, a nomination that had been on hold since August. Woodson will assume a key post that has been vacant since Dr. S. Ward Casscells resigned in April 2008. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., put a hold on Woodson's nomination because he was concerned about an amendment to the Senate version of the fiscal 2011 Defense Authorization Act that would allow service women to obtain abortions at military hospitals even if they use their own funds. The final version of that bill, passed last week, did not include the abortion provision. Woodson, a vascular surgeon and an associate dean at Boston University, is also a brigadier general in the Army Reserve and serves as the Army Reserve Medical Command's assistant surgeon general for mobilization, readiness and reserve affairs, deputy commanding general. Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the Army surgeon general, in a blog post called Woodson's confirmation "great news for the Army medical family and all of military medicine," and hailed him as an accomplished physician and scholar. At his confirmation hearing this August, Woodson said he viewed development of advanced electronic health record systems in the Defense Department as one of his top goals, second only to care of wounded troops. Woodson told that hearing that the current Defense electronic health record, AHLTA, needs replacing. He promised to work with the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics to examine alternatives and then quickly appoint a program manager to develop a new system.