SG’s Message – Words That Define Us

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Esteemed colleagues:

At this time last year we were happily awaiting the Fourth of July holiday, relishing the opportunity for outdoor recreation, barbecues, and relaxing with our friends and family.  Little did we know, a year later, we would be facing the prospect of a fifth month of restrictions in our daily life including social distancing, the need to wear facial coverings, and the loss of our cherished freedom of movement.

We begin this summer very different as we continue to face an adversary that shows no signs of backing down.  Recent trends, in fact, demonstrate a concerning increase in cases affecting all of our Navy and Marine Corps team, to include Navy Medicine personnel.  How will we respond to this ongoing challenge?  For me, four words that describe Navy medicine’s foundational characteristics provide the answer:  resolve, persistence, toughness, and resilience.

Resolve:  to decide firmly on a course of action.  As the Navy’s medical force, our war fighters and their families look to us to provide the expertise to protect them.  They also look to us as role models for how to behave and act in this challenging environment.  We must demonstrate the resolve to practice what we preach and become the standard-bearers for how to overcome this adversary.

Persistence:  firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.  Time and again, Navy Medical personnel have demonstrated the ability to fight through adversity to complete their mission.  We are no strangers to sustained, superior performance.  Now more than ever, staying the course, even in the face of what may seem like overwhelming odds and insurmountable challenges, is critically important.

Toughness:  the ability to deal with hardship or to cope in difficult situations.  Toughness is a core Navy attribute.  We relish the opportunity to show others that we have what it takes, no matter the circumstance.  When the going gets tough, Navy Medicine gets going.  As our Navy motto attributes – Semper Fortis.

Resilience:  the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.  A key characteristic of high reliability organizations is that they take a hit and come back stronger.  SARS-CoV-2 has hit us hard, but much like the USS Constitution, we are built of sterner stuff.  As a learning organization, we know knowledge is power and each encounter with our adversary has made us stronger.  Every day the insights gained by our scientists, public health experts, and medical teams have made us more powerful.  We use this power for the benefit of those that we have the privilege of protecting.  We thrive on the opportunity to grow and adapt.

Resolve, persistence, toughness, and resilience…these words define our incredible team and the characteristics that will see us through this challenge.  As our Nation finds itself in the midst of this generational struggle, know that you are the living embodiment of these words, and it is you who gives Navy Medicine its power to prevail.  Thank you for all you do and please know what a privilege it is to serve alongside you.

With my continued respect and admiration,


Bruce L. Gillingham, MD, CPE, FAOA


Surgeon General, U.S. Navy

Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

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