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Navy surgeon general highlights warfighter support role
Vice Adm. Matthew Nathan, U.S. Navy surgeon
general, speaks during the second day of plenary
sessions during the 2012 Military Health System
Conference held at the Gaylord National Hotel
and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.,
Feb. 1, 2012. The MHS aims to ensure the medical
readiness of U.S. service members, and to provide
a ready medical force. (Photo by Mass Communication
Specialist 2nd Class Michael B. Lavender/Released)

Navy surgeon general highlights warfighter support role

From Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Public Affairs

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. - The top medical officer for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps highlighted the key role his medical forces play in support of the operating forces to a capacity crowd at the 2012 Military Health System Conference held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center Feb. 1.

Navy Surgeon General, Vice Adm. Matthew Nathan, told an audience of more than 1,000 U.S. military and federal health care professionals that the main mission of Navy Medicine is to keep the nation's naval forces medically ready to operate around the world in support of U.S. national objectives.

"Our job in Navy Medicine is to support the forward deployed force and provide readiness," said Nathan. "When the world dials 911, it's not to make an appointment."

Nathan highlighted the Navy's global mission of being forward deployed to provide a power projection and deterrence role while also being ready to respond to humanitarian assistance and disaster response requirements.

"We are a global force for good," said Nathan. "We build our Navy for war. But we operate our Navy for peace."

The annual conference allows all the stakeholders in the U.S. military health system, including the representatives from all branches of service, TRICARE Management Activity, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to come together and share lessons learned and best practices throughout the military medicine field.

During his presentation, Nathan discussed the Navy medical role in battlefield trauma care and the successes the joint medical forces have achieved in caring for those wounded during the past decade of combat operations.

"Our main mission is support to the warfighter and we're in the fight," said Nathan. "More than 50 percent of Navy [personnel] wounded over the past decade of war have been Navy Medicine. Our losses are 28 percent."

According to Nathan, the continuum of care for combat wounded is unprecedented with a survivability rate of approximately 97 percent.  He told the crowd that now the average time from when a patient receives near-mortal wounds on the battlefield until they end up at an intensive care unit at Walter Reed Bethesda, Brooke Army Medical Center, or Naval Medical Center San Diego is three to five days. He noted this is due to the cooperation of the Navy, Air Force and Army medical teams along the way.

Nathan reminded the crowd that wounded warrior care is a long-term mission that will require continued collaboration among the services and other federal healthcare agencies.

"This is going to be a military, Veteran's Affairs and private sector call to duty of America to deal with the numbers of service men and women who are dealing with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress," said Nathan.

Nathan concluded his remarks by highlighting the unprecedented achievements the joint medical team has accomplished together and affirmed his commitment to working with his service counterparts to look for greater efficiencies and better ways to conduct the business of healthcare for the U.S. military, families and veterans.

"I've seen the synergy of what happens when the Army, Navy, and Air Force come together during medical operations," said Nathan. "We celebrate our victories together and mourn our losses together. We are family."

As the Navy Surgeon General and Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Nathan leads 63,000 Navy Medicine personnel that provide healthcare support to the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, their families and veterans in high operational tempo environments, at expeditionary medical facilities, medical treatment facilities, hospitals, clinics, hospital ships and research units around the world.