Message from the SG: What the Women and Men of Navy Medicine Do

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Esteemed Navy Medicine Shipmates,

Navy Medicine continues to serve on the front-lines of our Nation’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. We are medical professionals working together as high-performance teams to bring the full power of Navy Medicine to our mission and to our country.  We were built for this mission and the work you are doing reflects our One Navy Medicine strategy.  We are all fully engaged in support of this national emergency – Fleet and Fleet Marine Force medical personnel and MTF providers and staff, as well as our public health, research and development, emergency preparedness, and logistics experts.

This week our hospital ships, USNS Comfort in New York and USNS Mercy in Los Angeles, arrived on scene and immediately established relationships with local and state health officials bringing our skills and expertise to those hardest hit.   As we speak, our teams are providing care to those most in need and are beginning to ramp up the number of patients they are treating.  Our hospital ships may be our most visible symbols of Medical Power but they are part of the wider MHS support network.

The Navy, along with the Army and Air Force, have deployed Expeditionary Medical Facilities (EMFs) to provide urgent care to areas impacted by COVID-19.  Naval Hospital Jacksonville’s EMF – Mike split into two teams. One will be working in New Orleans caring for COVID-19 patients under investigation who are awaiting their test results but unable to return to private residence for self- quarantine. The other team is in Dallas awaiting final assignment.

Volunteer Navy Medicine reservists have immeasurably strengthened our One Navy Medicine team. After assessing that their absence would not negatively impact the health care response of their own communities, these dedicated professionals stepped up to augment our support to our country. They are deployed on board USNS MERCY, USNS COMFORT, serving at our medical treatment facilities and also staffing Expeditionary Medical Facility Navy Reserve-Bethesda that has been activated to support New York City.  Regardless of the mission, they, like all of you, are at the epicenter of protecting the health of Sailors, Marines, families, and our fellow citizens.

Make no mistake; there is demanding work ahead.  We are in this together and leveraging the talents of our civilian, contractor, active duty and reserve communities, we will prevail.   One of our greatest strengths as an organization is that we thrive on rapid cycle feedback to improve the quality and the safety of the care we provide.  We are never content or complacent. We thrive on providing and receiving rapid cycle feedback, widely sharing not only our successes but, more importantly, what we have learned from our failures.  Just as we refined our approach to combat casualty care to achieve unprecedented survival rates, we will continue to apply best available clinical and research evidence to adjust fire and defeat this adversary.  That is what high velocity learning organizations do.

The members of a strong, resilient organization understand the value of clear, bi-directional communication. Keep in regular communication with your team and actively reach out if you feel you are “out of the loop.” Stay at home orders and long solo hours of tele-work also risk creating a sense of social isolation. Remember, social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement. The same technology that allows you to tele-work also allows you to connect with family and friends. Taking care of yourselves and families should be a top priority and is essential for mission readiness.   Don’t be afraid to walk away from your computers and take a break.  Get some fresh air and exercise.  And if you need to talk to someone please do so.  Communication is a sign of strength not weakness.  There are numerous resources within Navy Medicine and throughout the Navy to provide support if you need it.

  We have much to be proud of.  All of us are enduring changes in our work routines, lifestyle and our way of life but this has not changed our focus on the important work ahead.  Many of you are putting yourselves in harm’s way on behalf of our shipmates. Now we also have the privilege to bring our expeditionary medical expertise to bear on behalf of our families, friends, and neighbors.  As we confront this challenge, have confidence that regardless of the setting, we never work alone.  As the Surgeon General, I can assure you that the full force of Navy Medicine’s power is with you. Together, our talent, knowledge, toughness, creativity and teamwork will get us through this and we will be a stronger organization as a result.  Communicate clearly, strive to improve every day and keep yourself and those entrusted to your care safe.  That is what the women and men of Navy Medicine have always done and that is what we will always do.

With my respect and admiration, SG

Bruce L. Gillingham, MD, CPE, FAOA


Surgeon General, U.S. Navy

Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

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