SG’s Message – The Flame That Cannot Be Extinguished

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Dear Esteemed Navy Medicine Colleagues,

More than a hundred years ago, Florence Nightingale offered us the following words of wisdom: “Nursing is an art, and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion, as hard a preparation, as any painter’s or sculptor’s work.”  The devotion to the “art of nursing” is on full display for the world to see as Navy nurses continue to answer our Nation’s call and serve on the frontlines in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we recognize National Nurses Week and the Nurse Corps Birthday on 13 May, we celebrate the care and evidence-based practice and innovation these medical professionals bring every day to help our Sailors, Marines, and fellow Americans get well and stay healthy.

A critical component to improve the wellness and readiness of our force as we battle COVID-19 is to increase our arsenal of knowledge about the virus.  In previous weeks, I discussed the dynamic efforts of the Navy Medical Research and Development (NMR&D) Enterprise in adapting to the challenges caused by this pandemic. In addition to operating within sea, air, land, space, cyberspace, and logistical frameworks, we must now fight against emerging pathogens and infectious diseases to protect America and our national security interests.  To this end, our teams of scientists and researchers have been spearheading innovative countermeasures that will successfully supply us with vital data needed to operate in what Adm. James Foggo calls the “seventh domain” of warfighting – the biosphere.

Recognizing the importance of collecting medical data to help our country defend against COVID-19, Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) recently initiated the first-ever comprehensive research study to examine the serologic, clinical, and epidemiological aspects of the virus among young, healthy populations.  The aim is to support the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island’s medical mission to achieve maximum recruit health and meet graduation requirements and standards during the pandemic.

On May 4, NMRC commenced the COVID-19 Health Action Response for Marines (CHARM) study at Parris Island and the Citadel.  All study findings will be provided in real-time, in an effort to inform operational leaders with actionable information to help protect our Force and preserve war-fighting capabilities and readiness.  This study will help inform future decisions regarding isolation and quarantine, identify personnel infected with mild or no symptoms, and help determine when recruits can safely return to training.  Additionally, we hope to grasp a better understanding of how our bodies fight the virus by obtaining blood, saliva, and nasal samples that we can use to develop or improve tests, vaccines, drugs, and other countermeasures.

The road ahead will not be without challenges, but with the expertise of our NMR&D scientists, our public health teams, and Navy medical professionals on duty around the world, we will come out of this stronger and more mission ready.  Every day our scientists, nurses, corpsmen, doctors, and medical support staff actively continue to leverage the principles of rapid-cycle feedback to share lessons learned and inform future decision which help Navy and Marine Corps leaders mitigate the long-term impact of COVID-19.  Through it all, the spirit and light of Florence Nightingale’s raised “little lamp” is kept alive and burning brightly because of the skill and dedication our One Navy Medicine Team brings to the fight every day.

With my continued respect and admiration, SG


Bruce L. Gillingham, MD, CPE, AOA


Surgeon General, U.S. Navy

Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

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