Command of Navy Medicine East and Naval Medical Center Portsmouth changed hands Sept. 22 as Rear Adm. Elaine C. Wagner relieved Rear Adm. Alton L. Stocks in ceremony held in front of historic Building 1. Wagner became NMCP's 74th commander; she will continue to be the chief of the Navy Dental Corps.
Vice Adm. Adam Robinson Jr., Surgeon General of the Navy, and chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, gave the opening remarks, while Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., commander, U. S. Fleet Forces Command, was the guest speaker.
"You are part of a long tradition and part of force health protection," Robinson said. "The fleet does not sail, and no Marine goes in harm's way, without the people of Navy Medicine East. During the past years, there have been countless successes and challenges. I have every confidence you will meet the challenges ahead."
During his speech, Harvey spoke about the importance of NME and NMCP.
"You think of yourself as Navy Medicine East and Naval Medical Center Portsmouth," Harvey said. "I think of you as Fleet Medicine. You take care of my Sailors. The men and women at this medical center don't get a day off. They don't get a time out. Caring for the wounded and sick is unique in its responsibility.
"The Navy sends only its best to this command," Harvey said. "And everyone here cares deeply about the mission. I am so grateful for that."
Harvey spoke eloquently of his friend, "Doc" Stocks, recalling he "brought order out of chaos" in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake. Harvey had asked of Stocks was the USFF fleet surgeon and Harvey assigned him to be the Joint Task Force Surgeon to represent military medicine in the devastated nation.
"You provided outstanding leadership, and were professional where we most needed it," Harvey added.
Robinson then presented Stocks with the Legion of Merit, gold star in lieu of fifth award. Stocks took the stage and spoke emotionally about his tenure at NME and NMCP.
"To the staff of Navy Medicine East, you are simply the most professional and dedicated staff I have ever witnessed, especially your support of the 15 NME commands that provide care to greater than half of all Navy Medicine," Stocks said. "You make the delivery of medical care possible to Sailors and their families, from Texas to Bahrain."
Stocks remarked about the 181 years of history and excellence that has made NMCP the "First and Finest," and how the medical center continues to meet and exceed health care standards.
"NMCP is recognized by the Joint Commission as not only meeting, but bettering, the national benchmark for infectious processes," Stocks said. "All of our graduate medical education programs are fully accredited and half have received maximum accreditation status of five years. Our graduates have an incredible first-time pass rate of 94 percent, and an overall pass rate of 97.5 percent."
He mentioned the impact of the newly incorporated strategic plan and his desire to pass it along to other medical center's organizational goals. He then touted a 75 percent decrease in appointment wait time for Sailors and their families.
"Our operational forces medical liaison has set the standard for delivery of health care to the fleet. No longer do we wait for Sailors and their families to contact us for their health care needs. We proactively reach out to them and their command," Stocks said.
Speaking directly to his successor, Stocks congratulated Wagner on her assignment.
"Rear Adm. Wagner, in a few moments, you will be inheriting 181 years of proud tradition. You are exactly the right person and the right time and place to continue NME and NMCP on its true course.
"Seventeen months ago, I commented that I asked the surgeon general for a fast ship to command, and when I took the helm, NME and NMCP were full speed ahead," Stocks said. "And this has been a terrific cruise."
Wagner then read her orders, and after her flag was flown, she addressed the staff,.
"Adm. Stocks, you have left big shoes for me to fill," Wagner continued. "And to my new Navy family - I am deeply honored to be your new skipper. It's kind of overwhelming to be both a regional commander and the commander of a medical center, particularly this medical center. And my only direction to all of you at this time is to ‘maintain present course and speed.' You're all doing a great job."
During Wagner's speech, she asked everyone to take a moment to pray for those medical center staff who are deployed. Toward the end of her remarks, Wagner joked about her newly shortened commute.
"I'm leaving behind a 12-mile, 60-minute daily commute and gaining one that consists of about 100 steps," Wagner said. "That alone is reason enough to be the happiest person on the stage."
Stocks will assume command of Navy Medicine, National Capital Area and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Wagner most recently served as the director, Medical Resources Plans and Policy Division, Navy Bureau or Medicine and Surgery. She also has experience in Navy Medicine East region, having served previously as commanding officer of Naval Health Care New England, commanding officer of Naval Hospital Beaufort, S.C., and executive officer of Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Fla.
- NMCP Public Affairs Officer Deborah Kallgren contributed to this story.