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Walter Reed Bethesda Nurse Receives Senior Civilian Leadership Award


Panel Selects Manuel Santiago Among 9,000 Department of Defense Nurses

By Bernard S. Little
WRNMMC Command Communications

Retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Manuel "Manny" Santiago, clinical nurse specialist in Trauma and Acute Care Services at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, received the 2017 Senior Civilian Leadership Award during the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States Awards Banquet at the Gaylord National Harbor Convention Center Nov. 30.
The Military Health System's Civilian Nursing Leadership Award panel selected Santiago for the award based on his job performance, leadership skills, extra duties and other factors. The panel evaluates those nominated for the award based on their “impact in the delivery of nursing care, development of health-care professionals, and development of services and products beyond [their] assigned responsibilities,” according to MHS officials.
Santiago educates nursing staff on routine and specialized nursing care, as well as develops educational programs to increase professional knowledge and improve operational readiness for nursing staff at Walter Reed Bethesda.
He said the most rewarding aspects of his job includes educating staff and "bringing nursing evidenced-based practices at the bedside [for] safety and quality improvement in health care to improve patient outcomes. Our patients deserve the best and effective care available based on the best available evidence," he added.
Originally from Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Santiago served 25 years in the Navy, including four at Walter Reed Bethesda where he has worked as a civilian nurse for the past eight years. He said he became interested in nursing while studying marine biology.
“My family did not have the means to help me with my education, so I decided to join the United States Navy as a hospital corpsman, which was the closest enlisted classification related to biology,” Santiago explained. “It was while I was practicing as a hospital corpsman that my division officer sat down with me and encouraged me to pursue the nursing career. Well, I listened and I applied to the Navy's Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program, in which I was accepted and received my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in less than 18 months.”
Santiago has been a nurse for more than 24 years, and he said he’s inspired to keep doing what he does by seeing those he’s mentored and trained as junior nurses achieve higher levels of education and positions.
Army Col. Tonya Dickerson, former deputy director of nursing services at WRNMMC, and Army Maj. Christina Van Cleef, CNS department head, nominated Santiago for the 2017 Senior Civilian Leadership Award, which he called a “great honor” receiving. “It took me by surprise,” he added. “Being selected among 9,000 Department of Defense nursing employees is a great accomplishment, but at the same time, a very humbling one. It feels great to be recognized at this magnitude after years of hard work.
“I thank God for giving me the gift of healing hands and allowing me to become a nurse; my beautiful wife Luz, for being there for me on the good and less good days; my clinical nurse specialist colleagues and other nurses throughout the years for their guidance, support and collaboration; and Maj. Van Cleef, who believed in me,” Santiago said.