Surgeon General

Navy Surgeon General’s Get Real, Get Better Message

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Esteemed Shipmates,

For the Navy, the concept of High Reliability Organizations (HRO) was born in the high-risk, unforgiving environments of submarines, aircraft carriers, and diving operations.  HROs function well in a complex environment with a significantly lower rate of mishap and error than expected.  An HRO is not error-free, but demonstrates resilience and improvement by moving past errors and learning from previous failures and suboptimal performance.

As part of our primary mission to support the medical readiness of our Sailors and Marines, we are committed to being a High Reliability Organization.  In fact, the principles of HRO are not only the third of our “4Ps: but are at the very heart of the CNO’s “Get Real, Get Better” (GRGB) initiative.  We must learn from the moments when we “missed the mark”.  Only when we Get Real and are honest with our shipmates and ourselves can we make the necessary improvements to Get Better.  Here are two recent Navy Medicine examples of GRGB:

*         COVID DSCA Teams.  Based on lessons learned from early deployments during the pandemic, we used rapid-cycle feedback to revamp our medical support team models.  We saw traditional deployment packages did not meet the emerging requirements so we “embraced the red” to develop innovative force generation concepts that leveraged expertise from specialized skillsets across Navy Medicine.  The teams’ chief hallmark was their versatility and agility in providing tailored support to local acute care facilities.  Since July 2020, we have deployed teams to 28 different cities where they provided indispensable medical care to civilian hospitals.

*         PHA Backlog.  Early in the pandemic, MTFs experienced a rapid accumulation of overdue Periodic Health Assessments (PHAs) – more than 25% of the force and ultimately affected readiness.  We took a hard look at the PHA process and developed ways to streamline our systems.  We improved our ability to “virtualize” visits while also creating new guidance that increased the prioritization of PHAs and readiness assessments.  The impact of these changes, along with your hard work, were immediate and significant.  By December 2021, we reduced the backlog of overdue PHAs by more than 60,000.

Of course, there will always be challenges – and with them, opportunities for improvement.  As an HRO we are never content with the status quo, but constantly strive to improve. Get Real, Get Better gives us the tools to reach even higher levels of performance. Recently, we sent one of our Forward Deployed Preventive Units (FDPMU) to Poland. While we were able to meet the ten-day timeline for deployment, the team identified several processes that need work.  We are actively applying a “Get Real” approach and investigating how we can improve Navy Medicine’s ability to equip our medical providers for deployment.  With the lessons we have learned – and will continue to apply – we can and we will Get Better in our ability to project medical power for naval superiority.

Thank you for your continued dedication to excellence.

For more on how we can Get Real, Get Better please see link below.

With my continued respect and admiration,


Navy Medical Leadership Message on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR)

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Esteemed Shipmates,

We are the world’s preeminent fighting force because we care for our people.

Our values of honor, courage, and commitment are the lifeblood of our service.  Every act of sexual harassment or assault directly undermines those values – and hurts military readiness.  All Navy Medicine Sailors and civilians must be responsible for demonstrating professional and ethical behavior in all settings and at all times – whether on duty, at home, or online.

We must do all we can to counter the scourge of sexual assault and sexual harassment.  Anyone who encounters or witnesses offensive behaviors has a duty to speak up, intervene, and report it swiftly to the appropriate points of contact.  If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual harassment or sexual assault, call the DoD Safe Helpline.  Services are available 24/7 by phone at 1-877-995-5247 or by text at 55-247 if CONUS or 571-470-5546 if OCONUS, or online

Navy Medicine strives to create and maintain a work environment where everyone is treated with dignity, decency, and respect.  This is fundamental to operating as a highly cohesive team providing outstanding care to our warfighters and their families.  To learn more, click on the link below to watch a message from Rear Admiral Shaffer and me.

SG and DSG Send



Updated Leadership Guidance from the SG and CNO

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The SG recently issued some updated leadership guidance to the senior leaders in Navy Medicine. Part of this was because the CNO updated his Charge of Command and the new Get Real Get Better initiative. Here are the relevant documents:

SG’s Message – Making a Powerful Difference

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Esteemed Shipmates,

This month our COVID Defense Support to Civil Authorities missions are nearing an end.  For over a year, our One Navy Medicine team members supporting these missions have made a true difference in the care and survival of COVID patients throughout America.  Since July 2021, we deployed more than 510 people to 24 cities.  These experiences not only speak to our strong partnership with U.S. Army North, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Health and Human Services, but it also reflects our adaptability in answering the call for assistance.  We quickly sent tailored medical teams with specific skill sets to meet new mission requirements.  Our ability to make real-time adjustments on the biological COVID battlefield is a testament to our people, our platforms, and the high levels of performance and medical power we deliver.

Although we recognize that COVID variants will remain with us for the foreseeable future, it is time for us to refocus ourselves on our original and eternal mission – Navy Medicine exists to ensure we have a healthy, combat-ready naval force capable of winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas.

Recently, FORCM Roberts and I traveled to Bahrain, Israel, Sigonella, and Naples to see our medical warriors in the CENTCOM and EUCOM areas of responsibility.  At each location, we met with base and local leadership.  While in Israel, I met with my counterpart as we strengthened our strategic relationship.   We saw some exciting research the Israeli Navy is doing in diving and hyperbaric therapy – innovative endeavors that may offer opportunities for future collaboration.  In Italy, we had the opportunity to host joint town halls with Lt. Gen. Ron Place, Director of Defense Health Agency (DHA), and CSM Gragg, Senior Enlisted Leader, DHA, and we were able to observe some of the incredible work our Sailors are doing in overseas.  Overall, this trip reinforced our existing force readiness requirements, and the critical capabilities Navy Medicine provides to Combatant Commanders as we ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

Geopolitics often drives our global missions and where we deploy; the war in Ukraine is yet another reminder.  We have seen the images of war-torn cities and people fleeing to Poland, Moldova, and Romania.  As with past conflicts, we are boots-on-the-ground supporting our forces.  Currently, Navy Medicine is providing medical and dental support at the Aegis Ashore clinics in Poland and Romania.  Last week, we deployed a Tier 1 Forward Deployed Preventive Medicine Unit to help care for refugees in Poland.  Whether in the European theater or stateside, one thing is clear: our One Navy Medicine Team is making a powerful difference in a world that has never needed it more.

Thank you for all you continue to do.  Charlie Mike – Rendering Assistance.

SG Sends

SG’s Message – We are One Navy Medicine – Celebrating Black Health and Wellness

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African-American/Black History Month is an annual observation which recognizes significant accomplishments of African and Black Americans throughout our nation’s history; through their contributions in medicine, sciences, arts, law, politics, sports and so much more.  The history of Black History Month traces back to 1915, when the “Father of Black History Month,” Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and he introduced the first Negro History Week in February 1926.  In 1976, nearly 50 years later, President Gerald Ford issued the first Black History Month proclamation, calling upon Americans to celebrate and observe the contributions and accomplishments of Americans with African heritage each February.

Black History is American history, and there is no shortage of Black American trailblazers, leaders and heroes to recognize and admire.  In celebration of Black History Month 2022’s theme of Black Health and Wellness, and these are numerous firsts, whose contributions to Navy Medicine opened the doors for many others:

–  Phillis Mae Dailey, the first African American Navy Nurse Corps Officer

–  Ruth C. Isaacs, Katherine Horton, and Inez Patterson, first African American WAVES to enter the Hospital Corps School at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.

–  Lt. Thomas Watkins, Jr., became the first African American naval dentist.

– Donna P. Davis was commissioned as a LT in 1978, as the first African American female physician in the Navy.

– Joan Bynum<>, a Navy nurse and the first African American woman to be promoted to Captain (O-6).

–  Vice Admiral Adam M. Robinson, Jr.<>, the first African American appointed as Surgeon General of the U.S. Navy.  He served as the 36th Surgeon General of the Navy.

I am reminded every day of the mission criticality of diversity, inclusion and equity.  Like many of you, as we walk the halls of our place of work or view webpages of our organization, it is apparent that our leadership and C-suite compositions are not always reflective of our entire demographics.  I further recognize that even the position of the Surgeon General which I currently hold since its inception has lagged in terms of race, gender and Corps diversity.  Complacency, deflection, and avoidance does not drive change – but action, empathy understanding and accountability does.  We cannot erase past inequities and subjugations of our Nation and forefathers, but we learn from them and can collectively pledge to improve and embrace the diversity, equity and inclusion moving forward.  This starts with each of us; the transparency and accountability for change we want to see in the future starts with us, right now.  Admiral Zumwalt said, “There is no black Navy, no white Navy-just one Navy-the United States Navy.”   I say, there is One Navy Medicine.

This February, Navy Medicine joins a greatful nation in honoring and celebrating the contributions Black Americans have made to our Nation and our Navy… “Black Health and Wellness”, the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birth workers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora,”

Join me in raising awareness of the contributions and celebrating the achievements of all Americans!

SG Sends

SG Conversations with the Authors: The Sailor’s Bookshelf, 1200 on 14 Feb 2022

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At 1200 on February 14, 2022, the Surgeon General of the Navy will be speaking with Adm. (ret.) James Stavridis on Facebook Live as part of the “Conversations with the Authors” Series.  

The topic of conversation will be  The Sailor’s Bookshelf: Fifty Books to Know the Sea by Admiral Stavridis.   As a Facebook Live event this will be open to the Enterprise and we encourage all BUMED personnel to watch on the BUMED Facebook site.

A flyer about this event is attached and hope you can all attend:

SG’s Message – Charlie Mike: One Navy Medicine is RENDERING ASSISTANCE

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Esteemed Shipmates,

In an era long before satellites, cell phones, and radios, seafarers used a communication system based on flags and pennants.  Transmitting messages over long distances is called semaphore, and these visual signals (signal flags) enabled ships to “speak” with other ships at sea.  For more than 30 years, Navy Medicine has used signal flags to communicate our active mission posture.  Many may recall after the attacks of September 11th, the advent of “Charlie Papa” and how these flags could be found across the enterprise reminding us that we were “Steaming to Assist.”  After 20 years of holding this course, we recognized a need to shift colors and accurately reflect our post-Global War on Terror focus.

Our One Navy Medicine Team is actively RENDERING ASSISTANCE to warfighters and civilians alike, throughout the Fleet and ashore, with the Marine Corps, and civilian medical facilities throughout the United States.  This week we launched our new signal flags – “Charlie Mike” – to convey the message of “Rendering Assistance.”

Examples abound.  From our continued fight against COVID-19, to embedded mental health services with deployed Naval Forces.  From medical screenings, immunizations, and acute care in support of Operation Allies Welcome, to providing volcano relief alongside the Australian Defense Force in Tonga.  Rendering Assistance is nothing new for Navy Medicine.  It is what we do – and we do it well!

Without any fanfare or recognition, Navy Medicine is rendering assistance every day.  We keep our warfighters in the fight and answer the call around the globe.  These signal flags reflect our ongoing focus and help guide us forward as we support the mission and ensure the health and readiness of America’s Sailors and Marines.

For more information about our new Signal Flags, check out the links below:

Charlie Mike video:


YouTube link:

Charlie Mike FAQ:

With my continued respect and admiration,

SG Sends

SG’s Message – Remember! Celebrate! Act! “A Day On…. Not A Day Off”

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On Monday, our Nation will pause in remembrance and celebration of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr – an influential American civil rights activist, leader, strategist, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.  Throughout his life, Dr. King worked to bend the universe’s moral arc toward justice and unity.  He called upon all of us to do the necessary work to deliver on our country’s promise of providing equality, peace, and liberty for all.  

Central to this idea – and a cornerstone to One Navy Medicine’s Culture of Excellence – are the tenets of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  As an organization that values the principles of high reliability, we endeavor to foster inclusion and connectedness – and to do the right thing, especially when it is hard.   We collectively strive to create and maintain environments where ALL members are treated with dignity and respect.  We take this action not only because it is the right thing to do – it makes us a stronger and more effective team that wins.

While delivering a speech in Montgomery, AL, Dr. King asked his audience one basic question:

“What are you doing for others?”

I encourage each of you to draw inspiration from Dr. King’s inquiry and to recreate his belief through selfless, responsible, safe, and appropriate community service. Doing for others doesn’t have to be dramatic, earth-shattering or grandiose – it just needs to be an honest manifestation of what you can earnestly afford to give of yourself coupled with seeing the good in others.  So whether you plan to give blood to help address the nationwide shortage; tutor a young person; mentor a colleague; assist those who are food insecure; clean up a public space; volunteer at a shelter; or merely engage in a meaningful discussion to cultivate deeper understanding of a co-worker, what you do makes a difference! 

Nelson Mandela once said:  “There is no greater gift then that of giving one’s time and energy to help another without expecting anything in return.”  Making time to volunteer or give back on this day of service and beyond is a great way to honor the legacy of Dr. King’s dream.

Navy Medicine is comprised of Sailors and civilians who provide expertise, know-how, and perspective shaped by personal journeys. We are a team of individuals who represent many different cultures, ethnicities, and experiences – all united in a common goal of supporting the enduring operational mission.  Together One Navy Medicine is strong in providing medical power for naval superiority, but through the application of the principles championed by Dr. King, we can stand united in arms to combat a bigger enemy that adversely affects the health of individuals and communities – Injustice.

More information about Dr. King’s life and possible volunteer opportunities is available at:

With my continued respect and admiration,

SG Sends

SG Message – Thank You for Standing Holiday Watch!

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Esteemed Colleagues:

As we prepare for the upcoming holiday season I’d like to offer special appreciation to those who are currently deployed, selflessly standing the watch to preserve our precious freedoms and to those who have stepped up to take holiday duty so their shipmates can be with their families. As a world-wide 24/7/365 operation, Navy Medicine couldn’t carry out its mission to project medical power for naval superiority without your dedication and mission focus-THANK YOU!

Also, remember that the holidays can be a stressful time.  We ask that you continue to look after your shipmates; never underestimate the positive impact your actions can have on those who may be in need of support and understanding.

The coronavirus remains a challenging and persistent adversary, and we appreciate everything you’ve done to keep Sailors, Marines, military family members, and our fellow citizens safe.  We are immensely grateful for all the incredible work you have done across all our platforms during these busy and trying times. Your patients are enjoying the holidays with their families because of your compassionate and expert care. Well done!

On behalf of the entire Navy Medicine Leadership team, we wish you a safe and restful holiday and look forward to seeing you next year energized and ready to surmount whatever new challenges come our way.  Please take a moment to click on one of the links below to watch a holiday video message from the FORCM, DSG, and myself.  There are “special scenes” at the end that you don’t want to miss 😎

Navy Medicine Holiday Video:

— Navy Medicine DVIDS (Gov’t Computer Access):

— Navy Medicine YouTube Channel:

— Navy Medicine Facebook Page:

Happy Holidays!

With my deepest gratitude, SG

Bruce L. Gillingham, MD, CPE, FAOA
Surgeon General, U.S. Navy
Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery