MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. – Decades ago, The Beatles asked the question in music, “Will you love me when I’m 64?” Madigan Army Medical Center’s Graduate Medical Education program just celebrated its 64th commencement ceremony of medical professionals at the American Lake Conference Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., on June 9, and the answer for this military treatment facility was a resounding, “Yes!”
Each June, Madigan hails a new group of interns, residents and fellows to complete their training with a combination of clinical care, academic study, research projects and leadership development before stepping into practice as independent, licensed providers. Most are fresh out of medical school and newly minted military officers. Some, like those completing fellowships, already have some medical practice under their belts.
At the same time, Madigan bids farewell by graduating a class of trainees. The 2022-2023 class totaled 106 medical professionals. At any given time at Madigan, there are 400-500 Soldiers in a training status.
“Madigan has a long history of producing future military medical leaders,” noted Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Telita Crosland, the director of the Defense Health Agency, as she offered the ceremony’s keynote address. “Your work has become more challenging with every passing year and yet you continue to produce exceptional graduates, ready for the world. It is noticed and appreciated,” she added in recognizing the faculty, staff, mentors and colleagues of the graduates.
The graduates crossing the stage in Friday’s ceremony represented two dozen programs that span a wide range of specialties and sub-specialties. In addition, seven awards were presented acknowledging the outstanding performance and influence of graduates, faculty and staff alike.
“I’ve seen the extraordinary care that this amazing group of professionals delivers each and every day,” noted Col. (Dr.) Jonathan Craig Taylor, Madigan’s commander and the director of DHA’s Puget Sound Market, of which Madigan is the largest facility.
Crosland and Taylor offered words of advice drawn from their own experiences as family medicine doctors in uniform.
Crosland, who took the reins of the DHA at the start of the year, expressing her belief that what will carry these physician-Soldiers through any crisis is their leadership philosophy, shared of few of these fundamentals that she sees as most valuable.
“Stay true to your knowledge of science,” she said. “Use your advanced training and your voice to inform and educate others. You need to counter misinformation and disinformation and you need to do this with kindness and with empathy without ever speaking down to anyone. But you cannot be silent.”
Before offering that advice, Crosland detailed many ways the world has changed since many of these graduates entered their programs at Madigan, to include COVID-19, the war in Ukraine and the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
“Stay close to your mentors; the men and women in this room and across the globe who helped educate you and develop you are going to remain interested in where you go and what you do,” she continued, adding that those who have already invested in these graduates will continue to care about them.
Expressing gratitude for the mentors who have helped shape her both professionally and personally, Crosland also encouraged paying that debt forward, as she works to do herself, telling the graduates to be mentors themselves.
She noted that, unlike in the civilian healthcare system, military personnel who are not physicians, for example, the enlisted medical force, but may very well be called upon to function independently. They may find themselves in austere environments where they are the sole medical professionals. The community around them will call them doc and rely upon them for care, sometimes lifesaving care.
“Take those few extra moments to share your knowledge with them,” she encouraged the physicians in the room.
Taylor stepped into the wayback machine to share how he has shaped his early dreams to create an impactful career.
As a child, his Saturdays were filled with cartoons, with superheroes capturing his imagination. The rest of the week was filled with attempts to recreate the impressive actions of those characters. Accepting that he did not possess those superpowers himself, he did come to realize that there are ones that he and the graduates can access, offering two examples.
“The first and most obvious is the power to physically heal,” he said, noting this is a common reason for becoming a doctor.
Secondly, he asserted that healing the whole person through compassion is a superpower available to medical professionals.
“I have always loved and cherished the fact that Madigan’s motto is “Care with Compassion” – conveying the idea that when combined, the impact is far greater than either one alone,” Taylor said. “In the moments that you might be tired, exhausted, frustrated, please cling to the knowledge that you have these superpowers and that others are grateful that you are willing to meet them in their moment of need.”
Before picking up their final diplomas in academic careers that have seen a series of graduation ceremonies and numerous accomplishments, awards were presented.
Capt. (Dr.) Michael Lawson, the intern class president and graduate in the Transitional Year Program, presented the Outstanding Resident Teacher Award to Capt. (Dr.) Katey Osborne, a graduating emergency medicine resident.
“Capt. Osborne demonstrated exceptional dedication to academic and clinical mentorship, and ability to establish a positive learning climate among the trainees,” said Lawson, speaking for the graduating class that this award was, “Our gift to this resident to express our genuine appreciation for their work.”
Capt. (Dr.) Joscelyn Hodge, president of the Resident Council and internal medicine graduate, provided the Outstanding Staff Teacher Award to Maj. (Dr.) Sarah Smilow, a rheumatologist, noting that she was nominated by multiple residents, with one even calling her a “superhero.”
“Maj. Smilow is a remarkable educator who facilitates a learning environment filled with compassion, curiosity, respect and support,” said Hodge, adding that Smilow, “Serves as a mentor and role model both in and outside of the clinical environment.”
Capt. (Dr.) Christine Doughtery, the vice president of the Resident Council and emergency medicine graduate, offered up the Col. Janice Lehman Outstanding Clinical Nurse Award to Stanley Conklin, a licensed practical nurse.
“Their kindness and discretion make them trusted by the community, residents and the command alike. This nurse leads by example, fostering a climate of teamwork with infectious optimism and joy,” stated Dougherty of Conklin’s winning attributes.
Lt. Col. (Dr.) Kelly Langan, the program director for the Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency, gave the Outstanding Residency Coordinator Award to Audrey-Ann Smith.
“Our program has seen many successes over the past year which would not have been possible without Audrey’s work behind the scenes. Audrey’s most special quality, though, is her kindness,” said Langan. “Audrey truly is the complete package.”
The Lt. Col. Joseph A. Munaretto Outstanding Educator Award recognizes a Madigan educator who demonstrates teaching excellence.
“This year’s recipient of the Lt. Col. Joseph Munaretto award is unparalleled at technical and teaching ability,” said. Lt. Col. (Dr.) Quinton Hatch, the program director for the General Surgery Residency, of Col. (Dr.) John Horton, a pediatric surgeon. “He’s a master surgeon with hard-earned technical prowess. Most importantly, his commitment to selfless service, to his patients, to his country and to his family is unrivaled by any provider I’ve ever known.”
Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jillian Phelps, the program director for the Emergency Medicine Residency, presents the Col. Robert Skelton Award that recognizes an outstanding resident in a two or three-year program, at the graduation ceremony for the 2022-2023 class of healthcare professionals at Madigan at the American Lake Conference Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., on June 9, 2023.
Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jillian Phelps, the program director for the Emergency Medicine Residency, gave a detailed support of Capt. (Dr.) Steven Radloff’s qualifications to be the recipient of the Col. Robert Skelton Award that recognizes an outstanding resident in a two or three-year program.
“In an exemplary peer group, he's often overlooked but he is the quintessential military medical professional,” said Phelps after reporting a number of his career accomplishments. “Capt. Radloff is a fierce advocate for his family, for his passion of military medicine, for what is right, for his peers, for his patients.”
Phelps mirrored the enthusiasm of the other presenters as superior champions of the awardees, knowing the time and effort they dedicate to their work. Also, like others, she was pleased to have the opportunity to present the award because she knew the recipient was not one to claim the spotlight for himself.
“I am honored to be able to share with you how deserving Capt. Radloff is of this recognition because I know he would never do so himself and his family here today deserves to hear how we here at Madigan are stronger for his and their continued selfless service to our country,” she said.
The final award was the Maj. Gen. Floyd L. Wergeland Award, which is presented to an outstanding resident in a program of four or more years.
Hatch returned to the podium to present this award to Maj. (Dr.) Tory (Torbjorg) Holtestaul, a general surgery resident.
“She’s constantly identified by students and junior residents as the leader they aspire to be,” said Hatch. “She’s an outstanding surgeon, scientist, teacher and soldier. She’s a consummate professional who truly embodies the spirit of the Army Medical Corps.”
These graduates, who Crosland noted are some of the most knowledgeable people in the country and even the world in the medical field, will now disperse to all areas of the globe. Some will deploy, some will take charge of small facilities, and some will continue in a large facility on a major installation. All will continue to face the challenges of providing care in a changing world.
Taylor concluded his remarks by expressing gratitude to the departing graduates.
“Thank you for being outstanding healers that this military, that this nation, that this world, needs in this moment,” said Taylor.
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