Marina Vernalis

Marina Vernalis

Biology, Philosophy, 1973

Executive Medical Director, Integrative Cardiac Health Project, Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC)

When I was three years old, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. As a teenager, I had my heart set on pursuing that dream at an Ivy League school. My parents had other plans; they insisted I attend a small liberal arts college. My school of choice became Lycoming College, which turned out to be the perfect launching pad for an extraordinary medical career.

I was the 14th chief of cardiology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) in Washington, D.C., as well as the cardiovascular consultant of the Army Surgeon General—becoming the first woman appointed to these positions!

Now I'm the executive medical director at the Integrative Cardiac Health Project, a multimillion dollar federally funded program on cardiac prevention at WRAMC. The program is for military beneficiaries with the goal of optimizing human performance. Another aspect of the program includes identifying patients at risk earlier in life by diagnosing cardiovascular disease at the "molecular" disease stage. I am the principal investigator of the research program and responsible for its oversight. To date, we've published more than 60 peer reviewed scientific publications.

I hate to say this, but my parents were right. My experience at Lycoming turned out to be very positive. Our classes were smaller and the professors were genuinely interested in our education. I had a great education!