Esteemed Navy Medicine Shipmates,
I have never been more proud of our organization and the amazing work you do in support of our Nation and the U.S. Navy. The power of Navy Medicine is one of the most important weapons in our country’s arsenal and we are making a difference by bringing it to bear against this invisible adversary all across the globe. In his update to all Navy Flag Officers and Senior Executive Service personnel the Vice Chief of Naval Operations wrote yesterday: “Our Surgeon General, and the entire Navy Medicine team have been working 24/7 since this pandemic began, and even with Navy providing over 70% of DoD’s deployed medical forces, they are leading DoD research efforts on COVID prevention, testing and immunization solutions.” You are doing an incredible job during these challenging times and your effort and impact in this fight are recognized daily throughout the Navy and Marine Corps.
We are a solution-focused organization which leverages high-velocity learning to be resourceful and innovative, especially in the face of our current national emergency. As our One Navy Medicine team continues to learn more about the coronavirus, the scientific and medical counsel we provide to our Sailors, Marines, and their families will evolve as well. We will also improve our processes for how we marshal and deploy our forces; maintain, transport and deliver vital supplies; improve communications up and down our chain-of-command; and how we can take better care of our people.
In the spirit of continuous improvement, I recently challenged our Clinical Communities to take a hard look at how we can provide additional support by employing all qualified providers directly in COVID-19 care, irrespective of their specific specialties. Not surprising, they responded. We are seeing great examples of our clinicians stepping out of their traditional roles to fulfill boots on the ground support and standing watch to help meet the growing demand for COVID-19 health care support. Below are a few concrete examples. In the coming weeks I will share and highlight more with you:
- Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton: Dental officers stand ready to care for any urgent dental needs AND have integrated with their medical colleagues to serve a vital role in the hospital’s COVID-19 response plan. They are now serving on the “front line” in the flu tents and providing essential screening and triage to patients.
- Naval Hospital Bremerton. Expanded partnerships with the state’s Northwest Healthcare Response Network and the Washington State Hospital Association to develop a crisis standard of care flow path, which improves closer coordination in triage and send patients to available beds.
The imperative to move out of our comfort zones is not new. This is what we do, and I am confident you feel the same way. During my career, particularly in operational settings, I leaned heavily on my experience as a GMO and undersea and diving medical officer to care for patients, long after I became an orthopedic surgeon. Although we have many subspecialized doctors, nurses, corpsmen and ancillary support personnel we are all care-givers at heart. I appreciate your ability to reconnect to those fundamental skills that initially attracted you to a medical career, especially your caring and compassion as we work to defeat this adversary. I am greatly encouraged by the use of virtual health, particularly in psychological health, to ensure continuity of care for patients. All of us are under tremendous stress, and the availability of support services is reassuring — particularly during this crisis.
I encourage you to visit https://navylive.dodlive.mil/2020/03/15/u-s-navy-covid-19-updates/ and familiarize yourself with the U. S. Navy COVID-19 Mitigation Framework and the U. S. Navy COVID-19 Prevention Framework. Both documents provide our operational leaders with actionable information, help protect the Force, and preserve warfighting readiness. Importantly, they reflect the critical support that our Navy Medicine public health, research and development, and emergency preparedness experts, along with many others, have and continue to provide. Now more than ever, our leaders are relying on us for sound force health protection advice and recommendations.
In closing, I want you to know that while we are operating far from our comfort zone, our strength as a team of dedicated expeditionary medical professionals will see us through this crisis and we will emerge even stronger and more mission ready. My heartfelt best wishes to you, your loved ones and the American people fortunate to have you in their corner.
With my continued respect and admiration,
Bruce L. Gillingham, MD, CPE, AOA
RADM, MC, USN
Surgeon General, U.S. Navy
Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery