When Dr. Richard Jordan stepped into the role of Madigan Army Medical Center's deputy to the commander for quality and patient safety in December, he became both the first to ever fill that role as well as the first civilian deputy at Madigan.

A career internal medicine physician, he retired as an Army colonel with a total of 25 1/2 years of military service in addition to private practice experience.

"Dr. Jordan brings with him a wide range of experiences and insights into quality and performance improvement," said COL Michael Place, the Madigan commander.

A Puyallup, Wash. native, Jordan grew up in Alaska and Texas as well before serving a few years in the Air Force as a medic and combat controller. He later returned to Washington to earn both his undergraduate and doctorate of medicine degrees in his home state.

Jordan's passion for patient safety ignited during medical school when he took part in a fellowship in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then called Zaire).

"It was an eye opener coming out of the University of Washington, a huge academic medical center, and then going to the center of Zaire there in Nyankunde; what a different culture around medicine," he said.

One day a 10-year-old girl was a patient in the operating room; the anesthetist sedated the girl without anyone putting a monitor on her, meaning there was no notification when her heartrate unexpectedly slowed down.

"I just happened to turn around and look, and I noticed this distant stare in her eyes and I noticed she wasn't breathing," Jordan said. With three languages being spoken in that OR (French, Swahili and English), even the resuscitation effort was confusing. Afterwards Jordan spent days analyzing what led to her passing, and what could have prevented it.

That single sentinel event affected Jordan's focus throughout the rest of his medical career, to include focusing on patient safety and keeping his staff well trained. "Throughout my entire career, I've either been a risk manager or part of that group," he said.

After his initial fellowship, Jordan spent years in private practice in California and then at Tacoma General Hospital. In 1992, he became an Army Reservist with the 6250th U.S. Army Hospital at what is now Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Three years later, he decided to join the active duty Army here at Madigan. In fact, he interviewed for his first position with then-Col. Eric Schoomaker, who was Madigan's chief of the Department of Medicine at the time and later became the 42nd Surgeon General of the United States Army.

"It just looked like it might be a good time to come back on active duty. I got to fulfill a dream I had of becoming an officer," said Jordan, who stepped up into the role of chief of Internal Medicine just six months later.

Jordan's later assignments included Japan, Germany and Hawaii. Along the way he stood up a warrior transition unit, commanded a combat support hospital, and served as the executive director of TRICARE for Africa. After retiring from the Army in 2013, Jordan embarked on a two-year gig in Iraq as the chief medical officer running diplomatic support hospitals for the Department of State.

When Army providers began working with his hospital, he credentialed them, did peer reviews, and acted as their chief medical officer.

"We treated each other as a part of a team; it wasn't military or civilian. We had to take care of anyone who came through that door," said Jordan. "I think that experience really helped me as I'm fulfilling the role here of how can we make civilian and military mesh together at a senior leadership level."

Jordan will also help to ensure civilian employees' perspectives and needs are represented full time in the command suite, said Place.

"His familiarity with the civilian workforce allows him to reinforce the need for ongoing civilian professional development both in their technical specialties and as federal government employees," Place said.

Jordan said he's excited to be in a position that forwards quality healthcare.

"One of the things that I believed even when I first came back in the mid-90s, was that military medicine really does lead the way in a lot of avenues, much more so than I think a lot of people in the military even realize. I'm really happy and excited to be a part of that," he said.