FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Dec. 5, 2011) -- When Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno passed the U.S. Army Medical Command flag to Maj. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho during a ceremony at Fort Sam Houston today, the moment marked two historic firsts for the command.
Horoho became the first woman and the first nurse to command the Army's largest medical organization. The MEDCOM is organized into five major subordinate commands and five regional medical commands, all united under the MEDCOM commander. The command consists of eight Army medical centers, 27 medical department activities, numerous clinics in the U.S., Europe, Korea, and Japan, and 10 subordinate Army Medical Department commands and agencies.
She succeeds Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, commander since December 2007, who will retire in January.
Medical Command is one of 11 direct reporting units in the Army. It manages over a $12.8 billion budget and provides medical care for more than 3.95 million eligible beneficiaries worldwide -- active duty service members, retirees, and their family members. The command also oversees graduate medical education, health professional education, medical research and training of all combat medics.
Horoho will be promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and sworn in as the Army's 43rd Surgeon General Dec. 7. In that capacity, she will serve as the medical expert on the Army staff, advising the secretary of the Army, Army chief of staff and other Army leaders and providing guidance to field units.
Horoho said she is honored by the confidence Army leaders have placed on her to serve as the 43rd surgeon general.
"I am very excited about being able to serve with and serve for a team of professionals who are internationally renowned," she said.
She is also proud about joining a long lineage of past surgeon generals, going back to 1775.
"In every conflict the U.S. Army has fought, Army Medicine has stood shoulder to shoulder with our fighting forces, supporting those who are putting their lives on the line to defend our freedom. It is my honor to be able to serve in this position and carry on the strong tradition."
Though she feels the unique personal and professional skills she brings to the position are more important than her gender or career field, she said she recognizes the significance of her assuming the position and the potential impact it can have in encouraging professional growth across Army Medicine.
"Some say that I am cracking the glass ceiling," she explained. "I would submit that I am just the next person that is passing through the crack that has been opened by pioneers, leaders who came before me, regardless of gender, culture, race, or creed. What I bring to the job is not my gender, nor my clinical discipline, but my 28 years of experience and education in the field of healthcare."
As Horoho looks forward to the next four years, there is much to do. The past 10 years have presented the Army Medical Department with a myriad of challenges, encompassing support of a two-front war while simultaneously delivering healthcare to beneficiaries across the continuum.
She said plans to build on the strong platform that Schoomaker and the Army Medicine team established.
"There are challenges in front of us, but those challenges present windows of opportunities, and this team has the talent, drive and the passion to shape the future landscape that we have the honor to deliver care," said Horoho.
Horoho was previously dual-hatted as the U.S. Army deputy surgeon general and 23rd chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. She has commanded Western Regional Medical Command, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; Madigan Army Medical Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; Walter Reed Health Care System, Washington, D.C.; and DeWitt Health Care Network, Fort Belvoir, Va.
The general holds a bachelor of science in nursing from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a master of science in nursing as a clinical trauma specialist from the University of Pittsburgh. She is also a resident graduate of the Army's Command and General Staff College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces where she earned a second Masters of Science degree in National Resource Strategy.
She has earned many awards and recognitions throughout her career. In 1993, she was selected by "The Great 100" as one of the top 100 nurses in the state of North Carolina. In December 2001, she was honored in Time Life publications for her actions at the Pentagon during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In September 2002, she was honored as one of 15 nurses selected by the American Red Cross and Nursing Spectrum to receive national recognition as a "nurse hero."
In 2007, she was honored as a University of Pittsburgh Legacy Laureate. In April 2009, she was selected as the USO's "Woman of the Year." Most recently, the University of North Carolina School of Nursing selected her as the "Alumna of the Year," Nov. 30 2011.
Her military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with two oak leaf clusters), the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (with six oak leaf clusters), the Army Commendation Medal (with three oak leaf clusters), the Army Achievement Medal (with oak leaf cluster), the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, and various service and unit awards.