William Winkenwerder Jr., M.D., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, has accepted a job in the private sector and will resign his post shortly, Defense Department spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said. President Bush is expected to nominate S. Ward Casscells III, M.D., a professor of medicine and public health at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, to replace him.
Winkenwerder, who has held the position for 5½ years, told then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last year that he intended to return to the private sector, but later decided to extend his tenure because of his leadership role in military operations and national security, Smith said. The move, however, comes after a series of reports that ran in the Washington Post describing rundown living conditions some veterans endure at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
In February, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the formation of an independent panel to look into the conditions. Smith said that the timing of the announcement was in no way related to the conditions at Walter Reed or the Post series. Casscells, a U.S. Army Reserve colonel, returned last December from a tour of duty in Iraq, where he served as a liaison to the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and the Iraqi health minister to create a protocol for health policy and medical administration in the region.