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VA Researchers Who Served: Dr. Mary (Molly) Klote

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VA Office of Research and Development

June 17, 2020

 Dr. Molly Klote, an Army Veteran, is the director of the Office of Research Protections, Policy, and Education in VA’s Office of Research and Development.
Dr. Molly Klote, an Army Veteran, is the director of the Office of Research Protections, Policy, and Education in VA's Office of Research and Development.

Dr. Molly Klote, an Army Veteran, is the director of the Office of Research Protections, Policy, and Education in VA's Office of Research and Development.

Dr. Mary (Molly) Klote, an Army Veteran, is the director of the Office of Research Protections, Policy, and Education in VA’s Office of Research and Development. Previously, as an active-duty Army colonel with 30 years of service, she oversaw all human research policy, education, and compliance for the Army through the office of the Army surgeon general. She has published 15 peer-reviewed research papers that involve her expertise as an internist and allergist-immunologist. Her military honors include the Legion of Merit, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Korea Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Expert Field Medical Badge, and the Army Staff Identification Badge.



What motivated you to join the military?

I am the third generation in my family to join the Army. I grew up as an Army brat and could not have imagined another life. My dad was so happy in his career. His enormous love for the Army inspired me to join.



What inspired your research career?

If I hadn’t been a doctor, I likely would have been a detective. I like solving problems and getting to the answer. Beyond caring for patients, research is an opportunity in medicine to uncover and discover.



Did you have mentors who inspired you in life, the military, or your research career?

There are too many medical professionals and Army officers who inspired me, including my father, to name them all. My parents come from large Irish Catholic families, and my aunts, uncles, and cousins, many of whom served, had a major impact on my upbringing. I am one of seven girls in my family, and each of my sisters has impacted my life. My Catholic faith plays a significant role in my life. I am a member of the Order of Malta, a Catholic service organization that is dedicated to caring for the sick and the poor. My husband and children also help to ground me in the things that are most important.

At the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Dr. Renata Engler, the allergy-immunology fellowship program director, and Dr. Michael Nelson, the clinical laboratory immunology program director, had the most profound impact on my research career. Dr. Bryan Martin, the deputy allergy department chief, allowed me to join the research department at Walter Reed. That move set me on a course in research regulatory positions where I could influence issues and policy. Dr. Laura Brosch, now at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, has been my research regulatory mentor for many years. She has challenged me to question why we do what we do and to always make sure there is added value to any policy decision I make.

 Dr. Molly Klote as a physician in the allergy department at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2011. (Photo courtesy of James Madison University)
Dr. Molly Klote as a physician in the allergy department at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2011. (Photo courtesy of James Madison University)

Dr. Molly Klote as a physician in the allergy department at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2011. (Photo courtesy of James Madison University)



When and where did you serve in the military? Describe your military experience.

I began my Army service through an ROTC scholarship at James Madison University in Virginia. I majored in computer information systems and earned a regular Army commission in the Military Intelligence Corps upon graduation. I served as an Army intelligence officer for five years. It was a wonderful time to mature, develop leadership skills, and be given responsibility at a young age. I served for 16 months in South Korea, nine months in Honduras, one year at Fort Meade in Maryland, and one year as a detachment commander at the Rosman Research Station in North Carolina.

Before my military intelligence time ended, I decided to take night classes to complete the necessary requirements to apply to medical school. I was accepted to the Uniformed Services University and graduated with a medical degree and the Esprit de Corps award, which is recognition for a spirit of teamwork that is voted on by the class. I then trained in internal medicine, allergy immunology, and clinical laboratory immunology at Water Reed Army Medical Center.



What kinds of research have you been involved in? How has it impacted Veterans?

My research was mainly focused on vaccines and immunodeficiency. I conducted studies on the smallpox and influenza vaccines and on the incidence of infections after kidney transplantation, among other research projects. Today, I no longer have my own research projects. The focus of the last eight years of my Army career had been to help streamline the research regulatory process to make research easier for others. That is my goal for VA research, as well.

As an allergist-immunologist, I saw the benefit of medical research but was frustrated with the policy issues that seemed to slow the research review process down. I convinced my boss to let me join the department of clinical investigation at Walter Reed. After 18 months, I became the department chief. After making major changes and improvements in the process, I was chosen to provide regulatory oversight to eight Army medical center departments of clinical investigation. I was later selected to stand up the Department of Research Programs at the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Soon after, I transitioned to the Army surgeon general’s staff to lead the Army Human Research Protections Office, which oversees policy for all human subjects research in the Army: engineering, academic, and biomedical-behavioral health.

Molly Klote at the Fort Irwin National Training Center in California in 2013, after completing two weeks of war games in the Mojave Desert.
Molly Klote at the Fort Irwin National Training Center in California in 2013, after completing two weeks of war games in the Mojave Desert. "We dealt with real clinic issues and simulated combat casualties."

Molly Klote at the Fort Irwin National Training Center in California in 2013, after completing two weeks of war games in the Mojave Desert. "We dealt with real clinic issues and simulated combat casualties."



Did your military experience inspire you to pursue a career in VA research? Is your military experience connected in some way to your role in VA research?

As an Army officer, I was trained to think outside the box and apply knowledge and principles to novel situations. As an Army doctor, I had the opportunity to use that training to look at medical situations and see if there was a better way to do something. That is essentially research. You create a question to be answered, you develop a method to answer the question, and you conduct the test with the appropriate approvals. There are so many questions still to be answered, but my skills are best used to diagnose the problems of systems and to help streamline those issues to maximum enterprise performance and unleash potential. That’s my goal for VA research.



How do you feel about the possibility of making life better for Veterans through your work with research?

The work I do with my staff impacts all Veterans because we make the process of researching more streamlined. Therefore, trials start up faster and results are known sooner. The work I do now is more impactful than any project I could ever do. My office also has an education mission. We are charged to ensure that our researchers make it clear to our Veterans that research is voluntary.



Does being a Veteran give you a greater emotional tie to the work you’re doing or more insight into Veterans’ needs?

I think you always feel closer to a population with whom you can identify. Veterans are such a diverse population that I would not presume to think I understand all their needs. But I can certainly relate to many. It helps that I can speak the “language” of Veterans.



Based on your life experiences to date, what do you believe are the keys to success? What motivational tips would you share?

My favorite saying is attributed to Hannibal, the Carthaginian General: “I will find a way, or I will make one.” For the research community, that translates to, “How do we get to yes.” As someone responsible for some of the research policy in VA, I want to understand what the researchers are experiencing so the policy makes sense. When I first arrived at VA in October 2018, I went on a listening tour across 19 VA medical centers to learn the language and culture of VA. Listening is also a big key to success.

My motivation stems from knowing there is a VA researcher somewhere waiting to get started on a project that may unlock the next great medical or scientific revelation. Our research policies need to make sense so great ideas can be tested and can add to our understanding of science and medicine.



What’s the next step for you in your VA career?

As a senior executive, I serve at the pleasure of the leadership. There is still much to be done where I am. I am not looking for anything beyond my current responsibilities. I have an amazing team and am getting to serve in research at this historic time.


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