News Courtesy of: Sonja L. Hanson, NMCSD & NMW Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO (May 19, 2009) - In 1983, an Internal Medicine resident and native of Worcester, Mass., never imagined she would end up the Commanding Officer of the same Naval hospital where she began her career, let alone the regional Commander of 10 Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs). The area of responsibility entrusted to this Navy doctor is the western Pacific region spanning approximately 100 million square miles. As Commander, Navy Medicine West and Naval Medical Center San Diego, Rear Adm. Christine S. Hunter has turned this vast and varied region into an integrated healthcare system.
In 1995, Hunter assumed her first significant leadership position as Director, Medical Services at NMCSD. “She was innovative, helping to create the vision for the comamand and always looking for ways we could make things better for the patient,” said Vice Adm. Richard A. Nelson, U.S. Navy retired, then commander of NMCSD. “She is a very capable and caring individual” he added. During that assignment, Hunter redesigned primary care services and developed the Medicare Subvention project which served as the model for “TRICARE For Life”.
“I asked her to go to D.C. because she had the important clinical and leadership talent, the personality that allows her to befriend anybody, and was the kind of person who can make connections in order to build a team to do the necessary work,” said Nelson, referencing her tour from 1998 to 2000 where she served as his Executive Assistant while he was Surgeon General.
Additionally, Hunter served as Commander, Naval Hospital Bremerton from 2000 to 2003, as the Pacific Fleet Surgeon from 2003 to 2004 and as the Chief of Staff, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery from 2004 to 2006 where she organized medical support for tsunami, earthquake, and hurricane relief missions, as well as leading the development of Navy Medicine’s Pandemic Flu Response Plan.
During her tour at NMCSD, Hunter’s leadership fostered a progressive environment with the establishment of a Comprehensive Combat and Complex Casualty Care (C5) program, the premier west coast facility for wounded warriors; launched the first Navy Robotics Surgery program; and opened a state-of-the-art Medical-Surgical Simulation Center to enhance education and training. She expanded medical research and deployed staff worldwide in support of casualty care and humanitarian assistance.
“Among the many things that impress me about (Rear) Admiral Hunter,” said NMCSD Deputy Commander, Capt. Paul D. Pearigen, “is her remarkable ability to personalize every encounter, whether with an individual or a group, not only focusing on the specifics of that meeting or conversation, but also to use the messages of that encounter to teach, to illustrate and to inspire.”
Regionally, Hunter established alliances such as the Western Pacific Medical Alliance (WPMA) comprised of U.S. Naval Hospitals Yokosuka, Okinawa and Guam; the Pacific Coast Partnership among Naval Hospitals Bremerton, Oak Harbor, and Lemoore; and the Southern California Coalition which includes NMCSD, Naval Hospitals Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms; to promote collaboration among NMW facilities with similar missions, medical needs and geography. Hunter contributed to diversity efforts as the first female to command NMW and NMCSD fostering education, community outreach and mutual respect throughout the various cultures that comprise NMW. Hunter’s leadership also resulted in enhanced patient satisfaction and effective resource stewardship as evident by the recognition of NMW as the Navy Medicine leader for combined quality, population health, and business performance.
Adm. Mike Mullen set forth the “listen, learn and lead” motto in 2005 when he took the helm of the U.S. Navy as the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). Hunter embraced this model and mentoring style over the past two years.
NMW Chief of Staff, Capt. Patrick J. Kelly expressed what Hunter’s leadership has taught him, “You can be a highly effective leader and still be kind and compassionate towards the people you lead. She works hard, will push others hard to accomplish the mission, but is quick to reward and recognize strong performance. She willingly mentors and works with you to develop professionally and pursue your professional and even personal goals.”
Hunter credits mentoring she received throughout her career to her successes and acknowledges her deputies, chiefs of staff, and command master chiefs for expanding her leadership capabilities, saying they taught her to “think strategically and to remember to take care of people.” Hunter is responsible for leading more than 6,200 people at NMCSD and approximately 14,000 people across NMW.
“She values her Senior Enlisted and wants their frank and honest dialogue,” said NMCSD and NMW Command Master Chief Kathleen Hansen.
Hunter’s philosophy statement is one of optimism, opportunity and innovation, “I choose to view every challenge or potential threat as an opportunity to just get more creative,” she said. “We’ve learned to seek innovative solutions, to partner with the patients and get their feedback, to be savvy business people, and to become skilled human capital managers. We take advantage of the talent and energy of every staff member we have to move the organization forward.”
Hunter hopes she has encouraged the staff to “push out the boundaries and realize that the only thing that limits them is their imagination. Through reading, teaching, and encouraging dialogue, I hope I have instilled a sense of inquiry and exploration; raising the ceiling and pushing out the horizon to better serve our nation during unprecedented times.”
Commander, Navy Medicine West and Naval Medical Center San Diego, Rear Adm. Christine S. Hunter will be relieved by Rear Adm. Christine M. Bruzek-Kohler on Friday, May 22, 2009 at Naval Medical Center San Diego. For her next assignment, Hunter has been selected as the Deputy Director, TRICARE Management Activity, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Washington, D.C.
Navy Medicine West
Navy Medicine West (NMW) was established in July of 2005 with the realignment of Navy Medical shore activities under the direct command of Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. This realignment provided the authority to maintain readiness and to deliver the highest quality care in the most cost effective manner. NMW is an Echelon 3 command, providing centralized command and control for the Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) within the region. NMW is comprised of Naval Medical Center San Diego, Naval Hospital Twentynine Palms, Naval Hospital Lemoore, Naval Hospital Oak Harbor, Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, Naval Hospital Bremerton, Naval Health Clinic Hawaii, U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, along with affiliated Dental Clinics and the MTF aboard USNS Mercy (T-AH 19). NMW provides quality healthcare for all Navy and Marine Corps personnel ensuring physical and mental readiness before, during and after deployment, as well as delivering family centered care for eligible beneficiaries.
Naval Medical Center San Diego
Navy Medical Center San Diego includes the 268-bed main hospital, 11 primary care clinics extending from San Clemente Island to El Centro, and 10 dental clinics. NMCSD serves more than 250,000 beneficiaries in the San Diego metropolitan area, with nearly 100,000 of those directly enrolled to the Medical Center for their primary care. A typical day at NMCSD includes filling more than 6,500 prescriptions, conducting approximately 4,100 medical/dental visits, handling 50 operating room cases, admitting 50 new patients, and providing for more than 180 Emergency Department visits.