Horoho takes oath as first nurse, female surgeon general

By Rob McIlvaineJanuary 9, 2012

Horoho promotion
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Army chief of staff, and retired Col. Ray Horoho, her husband, pin the three-star epaulets on the shoulders of Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the 43rd surgeon general and commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command, in ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
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Horoho promotion
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Army chief of staff, and retired Col. Ray Horoho, her husband, pin the three-star epaulets on the shoulders of Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the 43rd surgeon general and commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command, in ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Dec. 8, 2011) -- Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the first nurse and first woman appointed, became the Army's 43rd surgeon general Dec. 7 in a ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.

She was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama May 10 and was later approved by the Senate.

She succeeds Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, who will retire in January.

"Over the past decade, Army medicine has led the joint health effort in the most austere environments." Horoho said. "As part of the most decisive and capable land force in the world, we stand ready to adapt."

A decade of this war, she said, has left a fighting force with both physical and psychological scars.

"We are dedicated to identifying and caring for those Soldiers who have sustained psychological and physical trauma associated with an Army engaged in a protracted war," she said, adding that the war fighter does not stand alone.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who passed the U.S. Army Medical Command flag to Horoho in a ceremony Dec. 5 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, promoted her to lieutenant general and administered the oath to swear her in as the Army's top medical officer.

"The Army cannot provide trained and ready forces to the nation without our talented medical professionals and leaders. In everything we do, we rely on medical command and the surgeon general to set the vision for this community and have the courage to carry it out," Odierno said.

Horoho has commanded the Army Nurse Corps since 2008, when she received a rare two-grade promotion from colonel to major general.

As Army surgeon general, she will direct the third-largest healthcare system in the United States, behind the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Hospital Corporation of America.

With an annual budget of $13.5 billion, the surgeon general manages more than 480 facilities and 29 executive agencies, many of which lead groundbreaking research efforts. She also oversees 140,000 military and civilian employees, and more than 3.5 million beneficiaries, globally.

The Army surgeon general's impact, said Odierno, extends far beyond the Army to the national and the international level, collaboration and partnership with other public and private entities on research, standards of practices, national leadership in areas such as brain injury, concussive disorders, mental health promotion and pain management.

"This position requires a special officer who can lead change and achieve unity of effort in a dynamic, joint interagency and also in a multi-national role, working with our allies and partners around the world," Odierno explained. "For these reasons, it's important to pick the right person. And we are absolutely, incredibly lucky to have Lieutenant General Patty Horoho as the 43rd Army surgeon general."

"She's earned this extremely important leadership position, not only because of her incredible past performance and achievements, but more importantly her outstanding potential, as she will lead Medical Command and lead as the Army surgeon general," Odierno said, adding that her 28 years of experience and education will prove to be "an inspiration for many others."

"Army medicine," Horoho said, "has a responsibility to all those who serve, to include family members, and our retirees who have already answered the call to our nation. We will fully engage our patients in all aspects of their healthcare experience at each touch point, starting with the initial contact.

"We will make the right care available at the right time by demonstrating compassion to those we serve and value to our stakeholders. The collective healthcare experience is driven by a team of professionals partnering with the patient, focused on health, health promotion and disease prevention to enhance wellness.

One of Army medicine's greatest challenges over the next three to five years, she said, is managing the escalating cost of providing world-class healthcare in a fiscally constrained environment.

"I see these challenges as windows of opportunity for us to shape the future of Army medicine and I am confident, regardless of the environment or the landscape, we will meet all challenges in true Army medicine fashion -- with innovation, dignity and strength. Together, we will usher in the new era of possibilities.

While deployed to Afghanistan, Horoho remembered asking a young medic how he would describe Army medicine.

"He replied, 'We carry healthcare on our backs.' As we sit here today there are young men and women willing to put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Thank God we have young medics who are carrying innovative quality and precision healthcare on their backs, regardless of risk to personal safety. This is our privilege. This is our honor, and this is why Army medicine will face all challenges with strength, resolve and dedicated focus," she said.

As a Registered Nurse, Horoho earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of North Carolina, her Master of Science degree as a clinical trauma nurse specialist from the University of Pittsburgh. She is 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 Master of Science degree in National Resource Strategy.

Other military assignments include: Sstaff nurse on a multi-service specialty ward, staff and head nurse of a level III emergency department, Evans Army Community Hospital, Fort Carson, Colo.; nurse counselor, 1st Recruiting Brigade (Northeast) with duty at Harrisburg and Pittsburgh Recruiting Battalions; head nurse of a 22-bed emergency department, Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, N.C.; chief nurse and hospital commander of a 500-bed field hospital, 249th General Hospital, Fort Gordon, Ga.; assistant branch chief, Army Nurse Corps Branch, United States Total Army Personnel Command, Alexandria, Va.; assistant deputy for Healthcare Management Policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs), Pentagon, Washington, D.C.; deputy commander for nursing and commander of the DeWitt Health Care Network, Fort Belvoir, Va.; and deputy commander for nursing, Walter Reed Army Medical Center and North Atlantic Regional Medical Command, Washington, D.C.

Recognitions include being selected in 1993 by "The Great 100" as one of the top hundred nurses in the state of North Carolina. In the same year, she was selected as Fort Bragg's supervisor of the year. She deployed to Haiti with the Army's first Health Facility Assessment Team.

After she co-authored a chapter on training field hospitals that was published by the U.S. Army Reserve Command surgeon in 1998, Horoho was honored Dec. 3, 2001, by Time Life Publications for her actions on Sept. 11, 2001, at the Pentagon.

She was among 15 nurses selected Sept. 14, 2002, 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," and in May 2009, she became an affiliate faculty with Pacific Lutheran University School of Nursing, Tacoma, Wash.

"And most recently, she was deployed to Afghanistan as a special assistant to the commander of International Security Assistance Force Joint Command -- incredible, impeccable credentials,' Odierno said.

"With Soldiers deployed, taking care of families, taking care of wounded warriors -- exactly the kind of leader we want to be our surgeon general," he added.

On Aug. 29, 1898, Dr. Anita Newcomb broke new ground for the Office of the Surgeon General by becoming the first woman to hold the office of acting assistant surgeon, Department of the Army. She was assigned to the Surgeon General's Office as superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps, which she organized.

Another nurse, Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock, served as acting Army surgeon general from March through December 2007, temporarily filling the post after Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley was relieved as a result of aging facilities at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. But Horoho is the first nurse and first woman to be nominated for the position and confirmed by Congress.

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