After Almost 30 Years, Bukhari's Impact Lives On
At the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command's U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Lt. Col. Asma Bukhari is best known for her kindness, work ethic and genuine care for everyone she encounters. Now, after capping her nearly three-decade-long service career with a retirement ceremony on April 15, Bukhari looks back on the substantial legacy she leaves behind – and the plans she has moving forward.
"When I think about it, many years ago, I wouldn't have thought I'd be here for 27 years," said Bukhari during her retirement ceremony. "When I joined my internship it was just, 'Let's do the internship and figure it out,' – but before you know it, one assignment after the other, there was no time to think about it."
Bukhari's primary motivation to join the Army was to become part of the Dietetic Internship Program in pursuit of registered dietitian credentials. It was through this program that she began her career in the Army as a registered dietitian and began to forge the friendships that would last more than a quarter century.
"Lt. Col. Asma Bukhari is a mentor, a colleague and a friend," said Lt. Col. Aaron Crombie, director of the Nutrition Services Department at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, who worked with Bukhari at USARIEM, and additionally as a part of the 65C Consultant Program to the Army Surgeon General. "I received the best leadership handoff in my career when I replaced her as the director of the Nutrition Services Department at WRNMM. Her resources and recommendations gave me a running start at a tough but rewarding assignment. Truly an empathetic and caring leader, Asma will be greatly missed by the Army Medical Department and the Army."
An active duty Army registered dietitian for more than 27 years, Bukhari has served in a variety of positions in the field of nutrition and dietetics. Her expertise ranges from health promotion to disease prevention to performance nutrition, among a slew of other areas. Her final assignment was as a principal investigator at USARIEM and a deputy consultant for nutrition and dietetics to the Army Surgeon General.
During her time at USARIEM, Bukhari focused on improving the nutrition and lifestyle environments of Warfighters and their families, along with emphasizing health promotion and disease prevention. She has led studies on weight management, dietary supplement safety and evaluation of the nutrition programs offered in military dining facilities. Her goal was to deliver useful strategies that military beneficiaries could easily receive and apply to their daily lives.
Prior to her current assignment at USARIEM, Bukhari served as the director of the Nutrition Services Department at WRNMMC. She has also served as the Assistant Professor and Dietetic Internship Director at the Army-Baylor Graduate Program in Nutrition. Additionally, she facilitated establishment of the Army Specialist Corps Global Health Community of Interest in support of the Army Medical Specialist Corps Strategic initiative. Combined, these achievements show Bukhari's drive to serve the Army with fulfilling and purposeful assignments. In turn, she credits her family with pushing her to work harder towards her goals.
"It starts with taking care of people you work with and treating them with dignity and respect – to constantly work on self-improvement and not allow my own weakness to limit what we can achieve," said Bukhari, when describing the motto she lived by during her Army career. "To maximize teamwork, allow risk-taking and opportunity for team members to grow and to do all this with integrity, selfless service and personal courage."
Bukhari even leaves an impact on her commander, who delivered heartfelt remarks during her retirement ceremony. Her influence extends far beyond her colleagues and mentees, it even reached those she reported to.
"Lt. Col. Bukhari inspires those around her to reach far beyond what is thought possible," said Col. Troy Morton, commander of USARIEM, during remarks delivered at Bukhari's retirement ceremony. "It is this inspiration that motivates those she works with to set lofty goals and to work to reach those goals."
Now, Bukhari and her husband plan to return to Colorado, their home state, after her retirement and take full advantage of the opportunity to, in her words, "take it easy." She plans to travel, catch up on reading and enjoy watching her children pursue their own dreams. Bukhari also hopes to find mentorship opportunities in her new community just as she did while in the Army.
"I will miss the inclusive environment of serving in the military," said Bukhari. "It is amazing to see how everyone just comes together and share ideas to achieve the same goal. The sense that you do not have to be perfect but have the desire to do the best you can and take care of each other."
Even now, after all that time, she is still pushing others to work hard, encouraging them to operate with integrity and selfless service.