By Maureen ‘Shawn’ Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN editor-in-chief
“Hi, this is General Patty Horoho,” and so began a phone interview with army nurse Lieutenant General Patricia Horoho, who was sworn in as the 43rd Army Surgeon General in December.
Horoho made history, becoming the first woman and the first nonphysician to assume command of the U.S. Army Medical Command, a $13 billion global health system. She had also been the first nurse to command Walter Reed Army Medical Center, taking over after a report in the Washington Post revealed a host of deficiencies in care, housing, and processes at that facility, leading to the firing of the commanding officer, Maj. General George Weightman.
She was recommended for her new position by the prior Army Surgeon General, Eric Schoomaker, and it then went up the chain to the secretary of the army and the secretary of the defense, who then recommended her appointment to President Barack Obama.
We (there were representatives from four nursing publications on the call) spent over an hour peppering General Horoho with questions about her experience, objectives, strategic plans, and major challenges. Here’s a few of the highlights:
- Regarding her experience at Walter Reed, she said she learned the importance of transparency in critically evaluating operations, of having policies, funding and “capability” to deliver. She also was candid, saying that following “the Vietnam era, we lost sight of the importance of rehabilitative nursing and health care,” and noting that this would be a significant area of emphasis for her.
- Two special areas of focus for her, she said, will be behavioral health, especially as it relates to the sequelae of traumatic brain injuries, and moving the army from a health care system of delivery of services to a system of health that encompasses health promotion in all areas. “We need to move away from a ‘bricks and mortar’ system and out into the community,” she said.
- Continuity of care and practice guidelines across the nine major medical centers is another area that she will prioritize.
- Acknowledging that over 2,200 sexual assaults occurred last year, Horoho says this will be a focus of the women’s health task force. She sees the issue as needing a “gender neutral” approach, both for prevention and to provide a “command tone” and environment where women or men who’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted feel comfortable in coming forward.
Horoho’s had a long journey to get to her current position. You can read her bio here.