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Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, Retires as Navy’s 39th Surgeon General

27 March 2023

From Ed Gulick

Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, the Navy’s 39th Surgeon General, celebrated the culmination of 40 years of active-duty service at a retirement ceremony at the Uniformed Services University, Mar. 27th.During his tenure as Surgeon General, Gillingham led approximately 44,000 Navy medical personnel through the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery’s
Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham salutes the American flag as Rear Admiral Matthew Case presents it to him during a flag folding ceremony for Gillingham's retirement ceremony.
Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham salutes the American flag as Rear Admiral Matthew Case presents it to him during a flag folding ceremony for Gillingham's retirement ceremony.
Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham salutes the American flag as Rear Admiral Matthew Case presents it to him during a flag folding ceremony for Gillingham's retirement ceremony.
39th Navy Surgeon General, RADM Bruce Gillingham, Retires
Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham salutes the American flag as Rear Admiral Matthew Case presents it to him during a flag folding ceremony for Gillingham's retirement ceremony.
Photo By: BUMED PAO
VIRIN: 230327-N-WU565-067


Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, the Navy’s 39th Surgeon General, celebrated the culmination of 40 years of active-duty service at a retirement ceremony at the Uniformed Services University, Mar. 27th.

During his tenure as Surgeon General, Gillingham led approximately 44,000 Navy medical personnel through the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery’s (BUMED) most comprehensive transformation since World War II.

He oversaw a shift in mission from oversight of military treatment facility-based care to expeditionary, operational support, and directed BUMED’s 2023 Campaign Order which prioritizes support of distributed maritime operations, expeditionary advanced basing operations, and logistics operations in contested environments. The order realigned Navy Medicine commands to ensure the enterprise is postured to better deliver agile, scalable, and fully certified medical units.

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday, who presided over the ceremony, thanked Gillingham for his leadership.

“He has optimized Navy Medicine to project medical power in support of naval superiority,” he said. “He’s done so by unifying Navy Medicine, bringing the hospital side and the operational side together to make “One Navy Medicine.” Thanks to his leadership, this unified medical team has fully shifted its focus to supporting our operational and expeditionary mission.”

Gillingham additionally led Navy Medicine’s COVID-19 response operations which included nearly 190 operational missions and the deployment of more than 5,540 active-duty Sailors to civilian hospitals, clinics, and vaccination support sites, and aboard USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy which deployed to New York City and Los Angeles respectively.

A San Diego native, Gillingham is an orthopedic surgeon with a pediatric subspecialty.

During his career, Gillingham served in various positions throughout Navy Medicine to include director of Pediatric Orthopedic and Scoliosis Surgery; Associate Orthopedic Residency Program director; and director of Surgical Services. While assigned to Naval Medical Center San Diego, he was instrumental in establishing the Comprehensive Combat and Complex Casualty Care Center.

Operationally, he served aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) as staff orthopedic surgeon and as director of surgical services. He deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II as battalion chief of Professional Services (Forward) for the 1st Force Service Support Group and officer in charge of the Surgical Shock Trauma Platoon, achieving a 98 percent combat casualty survival rate while providing echelon II surgical care during Operation Phantom Fury.

When speaking about Navy Medicine’s response to COVID-19, Gillingham highlighted those who were crucial to the response.

Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham, Navy surgeon general and chief, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, speaks to members of the press about the ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19 while maintaining operations around the globe.
Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham, Navy surgeon general and chief, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, speaks to members of the press about the ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19 while maintaining operations around the globe.
Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham, Navy surgeon general and chief, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, speaks to members of the press about the ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19 while maintaining operations around the globe.
Department of the Navy COVID-19 Press Update
Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham, Navy surgeon general and chief, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, speaks to members of the press about the ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19 while maintaining operations around the globe.
Photo By: Courtesy Photo
VIRIN: 200324-N-JG529-001


“Unsung heroes, like our preventive and public health medical experts, medical researchers, laboratorians, infectious disease doctors, respiratory technicians and critical care teams stepped into the breach, not only for the Navy, but for our Nation, said Gillingham. “They were the engine that projected medical power for naval superiority, and I will be forever grateful for their expertise and dedication.”

Former U.S. Navy Deputy Surgeon General and mentor to Gillingham, retired Rear Admiral Tom Cullison, also provided remarks.

“Admiral Gillingham is highly respected throughout DoD for his calmness, equanimity and his vision,” said Cullison. “One senior leader reflects the thoughts of many of us here in the room by saying he expertly navigated the Navy and Marine Corps equities but he equally happy with the Defense Health System and the Defense Health Agency.”

Gillingham spoke about the connected nature of military medicine and the value of relationships.

“It’s important to understand that Navy Medicine is just a part of the military health systems. We do not face our recent challenges alone,” said Gillingham. “One of the true pleasures of this job was getting to know and work with my colleagues in the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reserves, Defense Health Agency and our civilian colleagues in the service and Defense Department secretariats.”

Gillingham closed his remarks saying he was confident in Navy Medicine’s future, citing dedication and teamwork.

“Those who will follow in our footsteps will be even more dedicated to our mission to project medical power for Naval superiority and they will do it in an incredibly collaborative and inclusive way,” said Gillingham.



Gillingham holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in cultural anthropology, with high honors, from the University of California, San Diego, John Muir College; and a medical doctor degree from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS). He is a 1986 inductee in the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Fraternity, USUHS Gamma Chapter.

Navy Medicine — comprised of approximately 44,000 highly-trained military and civilian health care professionals — provides enduring expeditionary medical support to the warfighter on, below, and above the sea, and ashore.

For more information about Navy Medicine, visit www.med.navy.mil
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