Horoho takes oath as first nurse, female surgeon general

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, Dec. 7.

ARLINGTON, Va. -- 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," said Horoho. "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," said Odierno.

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, Odierno said, 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 Lt. Gen. 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," said Odierno, 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.

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