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Walter Reed’s Junior Officer of the Quarter Embodies Patient-Centered Excellence

23 April 2024

From James Black

Walter Reed’s Junior Officer of the Quarter Embodies Patient-Centered ExcellenceBy James A. Black WRNMMC Office of Command CommunicationsFaith, Courage, Service, and HonorWhen you meet U.S. Navy Lt. (Dr.) Kathryn Flynn, you’ll likely observe her embodiment of the Navy's core values of faith, courage, service, and honor. The Mechanicsburg,
Walter Reed’s Junior Officer of the Quarter Embodies Patient-Centered Excellence

By James A. Black WRNMMC Office of Command Communications

Faith, Courage, Service, and Honor

When you meet U.S. Navy Lt. (Dr.) Kathryn Flynn, you’ll likely observe her embodiment of the Navy's core values of faith, courage, service, and honor. The Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania native attributes much of her success to her parents, who supported her aspirations and encouraged her to pursue her passions athletically and academically.

Growing up, Flynn realized that access to quality health care was problematic for many working-class families and some military veterans, prompting her to choose a professional path where she could be of service.

“I became interested in a military career when applying to medical school,” shared Flynn, recalling the patient populations she wanted to serve. “I always admired those who serve and protect our country, and I realized that pursuing a medical career as a military officer would afford me the privilege of caring for those people I so deeply respected.”

Her superior officers nominated Flynn for recognition as Walter Reed's Junior Office of the Quarter, a testament to their confidence in her leadership. “Being recognized as the Junior Officer of the 4th Quarter is a humbling honor, and I wholeheartedly appreciate my program’s support,” confided Flynn.

"As physicians in residency, we find ourselves stretched thin with 80-hour work weeks and extra collateral duties that often seem overwhelming," acknowledged Flynn, who is grateful for the recognition of her mentors and the support of her teammates.

An Officer and a Physician-Focused on Improving Patient Care

As a third-year internal medicine resident at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), Flynn’s responsibilities include serving as the primary care physician for 75 patients within the internal medicine clinic and advocating for her residency program and graduate medical education in support of various hospital committees.

“It is important to remember that I am just as much a military officer as I am a resident physician, so I am actively engaged in officer development through various avenues,” said Flynn, who also oversees a course titled Sick Call Screeners, which prepares corpsmen for medical deployments.

Flynn embraces her many roles and responsibilities, including serving on boards, facilitating the teaching of critical care skills to military physicians, and presenting posters and presentations to an array of stakeholders at various annual medical conferences.

Walter Reed Leads the Way for Women in Military Medicine

“Witnessing the increasing representation of women in the military, particularly in leadership roles at Walter Reed, is inspiring,” shared Flynn, referring to U.S. Navy Capt. (Dr.) Melissa Austin, who in July 2023 became the first woman director of WRNMMC, and U.S. Navy Capt. (Dr.) Kelly Elmore, who is concluding her tour at Walter Reed after becoming the first African American woman to serve as the hospital’s chief of staff.

Improving Patient Care at Military Treatment Facilities

“An essential way to support our service members and their families is to have consistent and readily accessible health care within our MTFs,” shared Flynn. “This ultimately means increased staffing levels to mitigate reliance on civilian health care providers.”

Flynn and her teammates understand that the nationwide nursing shortage, fueled partly by the devastating impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on health care workers, has created workforce gaps. She champions initiatives to support nurses, such as better managing caseloads and promoting quality-improvement initiatives to bolster morale and improve resiliency.

Promoting Healthy Best Practices and Resiliency

As an advocate for wellness, Flynn ensures that she uses "atomic habits" to maintain her fitness by taking small but significant actions during her work hours. These include taking the stairs instead of elevators to maintain her cardio health and taking a mental time-out between patients.

“I learned during my residency to set boundaries to maintain my resilience,” shared Flynn. “In a career focused on serving others, there are moments when prioritizing oneself becomes necessary to safeguard your well-being, which ensures the ability to maintain peak performance in serving my patients."

Flynn also credits her husband, U.S. Army Cpt. (Dr.) Brendan Flynn, a third-year surgery resident at Walter Reed, with crucially keeping her resilient and enabling her to understand her professional challenges while providing her with personal empathy.

“This type of support cannot be replicated by someone who does not work in this field, so I am incredibly grateful for Brendan’s support in this journey,” confided Flynn.

“As crucial as it is to have a partner that can share in these experiences, it is just as paramount to have a support network outside of medicine,” explained Flynn, appreciative of having a loving family and loyal friends who provide her with the emotional support to thrive.

Future Responsibilities and Aspirations

After graduating this June, Flynn will assume the Navy Chief of Internal Medicine Residents role for the National Capital Consortium (NCC), supervising 75 interns and residents while curating and delivering educational content.

Flynn will spearhead quality-improvement initiatives for both the program and the hospital while also offering her guidance and mentorship to individuals within the program.

Story originally posted on DVIDS: Walter Reed’s Junior Officer of the Quarter Embodies Patient-Centered Excellence 

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