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WASHINGTON — President Bush on Thursday nominated the chief of cardiology at the University of Texas to take over the Pentagon’s top health affairs post.

If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. S. Ward Casscells, 53, will become assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, a job currently held by William Winkenwerder, who has overseen military health since October 2001.

Casscells joined the Army Reserves last year and is a colonel. He recently returned from a three-month tour in Iraq. He previously worked as a civil servant as a senior investigator at the National Institutes of Health.

He is a principal architect of the Army’s Disaster Relief and Emergency Medical Services program, which uses communications technology to link remote medical experts with trauma and disaster victims.

In his university bio, Casscells said he was inspired to join the reserves after he became the first civilian to receive the General Maxwell Thurman Award, in 2004. The award, given to a physician for work in telemedicine and related medical technologies, convinced him he still could contribute to the military.

Casscells received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University and his M.D. from Harvard.

No time line was given by the White House for when they hope Casscells can begin working.

Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said Winkenwerder has served in the post longer than any previous assistant secretary for health.

Bush also nominated Claude M. Kicklighter to be the new Defense Department inspector general. Kicklighter currently serves as director of the Iraq-Afghanistan Transition Planning Group, and has served as chief of staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Thomas Gimble has served as the department’s acting inspector general since September 2005.

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