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Former Patient Urges Graduates to Keep Excelling, Inspiring


By Bernard S. Little

WRNMMC Command Communications​

A former patient of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, who's also a retired Army colonel and actor, encouraged graduates of the National Capital Consortium to keep excelling and inspiring during commencement June 22 in Bethesda, Maryland.

The NCC, which hosted its 2018 National Capital Area Joint Graduation in The Music Center at Strathmore, includes WRNMMC, Uniformed Services University, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital and Malcolm Grow Medical Clinics and Surgery Center. The more than 300 graduates included interns, residents and fellows who trained in a various dental, pharmacy, health care and business admission programs lasting from one year to six years. Retired Army Col. Gregory D. Gadson, who lost both his legs above the knees in an improvised explosive device attack in Iraq in 2007, served as guest speaker at the graduation.

Following his injuries, Gadson remained on active duty in the Army, eventually serving as the garrison commander of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where he oversaw the daily operations of the post, a strategic sustaining base where more than 50,000 military personnel and employees provide logistical, intelligence, medical and administrative support, and command and control for a mix of more than 140 commands and agencies for the Department of Defense. He retired as a colonel in 2014 after more than 26 years of service.

Gadson also had lead acting roles in the movie Battleship, as well as in season one of the CBS family television series The Inspectors.

"I think the most important thing you represent is hope," Gadson said to the NCC graduates. "Eleven years ago, I was wounded," he added. "My life was turned upside down, and who did I look to, who did my family look to? We looked to men and women like you...to be honest, to be frank, and to also provide hope, hope for a future, hope that we could get our lives back together.

"Every single one of you, regardless of your specialty, is a leader," Gadson continued. "You don't get to defer that responsibility," he furthered. "When you're in uniform, those who are junior to you see an officer and they expect you to lead by example. Just because you may not be on the frontlines or in the places you think are leadership supreme, you still have a responsibility to live up to that example, make that a habit and make it your character. When you have that, you will have an additional credibility that will make you even more powerful. Don't be afraid of being wrong, stay humble to your profession and stay humble to your patients."

Gadson also called the graduates "champions," adding that service members fight because of love for their country. "We also fight because we know we're going to be taken care of; we know that our country is going to do the best in honoring our service. You all represent that promise to the American people and to the American Soldier and service member...that you will do everything you can to make sure we get back home.

"You all are going to have the lives of our service members in your hands," Gadson said to the graduates. "Some of you are going to create new and life-changing procedures, as our military medicine has done throughout history. The cutting-edge procedures and activities that have been created on the battlefield and in military medicine have migrated to our civil society. You are on the cutting-edge of medicine." He added this is the expectation of service members and society as a whole.

Navy Capt. (Dr.) Mark Kobelja, WRNMMC director, agreed, adding the graduates "really have accomplished something special." He credited their efforts in helping the medical center achieve a number of accomplishments, including recent accreditations and re-accreditations by the Joint Commission and other professional organizations.

"Your engagement and participation, because you are there day and night, weekends and holidays, watching what is happening in our highly complex health-care environment, you join us, the faculty and administrative staff, helping to improve this [facility]; those are your victories. Walter Reed Bethesda is better today because you studied here," Kobelja said.

The WRNMMC director also saluted the "dedicated" faculty that enabled the graduates to achieve success. He said the faculty members helped create and build the graduate medical education concentrations into "premier programs attracting the nation’s best students of medicine and allied health."

Also during the ceremony, awards were presented to graduates, faculty and staff members for excellence in research, teaching, practice and outstanding performance in GME.

Army Capt. (Dr.) Gregory M. Lai earned the Outstanding Intern Award, as selected by the intern program directors based on the best academic performance, compassion for patients and outstanding interpersonal skills.

Army Maj. (Dr.) Jigarkumar A. Patel received the Lt. Neil Holland Award for the house staff member who best exemplifies excellence in teaching, humanitarianism, ability as a clinician, instructor, counselor and mentor voted on by the intern class.

Dr. Joan B. Ritter earned the Outstanding Faculty Award, presented annually to the staff physician who is voted by the current intern class to be the most outstanding physician, teacher and role model.

Navy Lt. (Dr.) Sara L. Robinson (resident) and Air Force Capt. Whittney A. Warren (fellow) received the Gen. Graves B. Erskine Award for the outstanding resident and fellow as determined by a selection committee.

Army Maj. (Dr.) Daniel J. Coughlin earned the Maj. Gen. Lewis A. Mologne Award for the physician in training who best exemplifies those quality of the late general and WRAMC commander, including a commitment to the care of patients, loyalty to country, respect for truth, honesty, and dedication to the practice of medicine as exemplified by Mologne.

Navy Cat. (Dr.) Gregory H. Gorman received the Vice Adm. James A. Zimble Award as the program director whose contribution, dedication and interest in teaching have significantly supported the WRNMMC GME program.

Army Maj. (Dr.) Paul G. Peterson earned the staff physician teacher of the year award, selected by a committee of program chairs and house officers who determines the recipient best demonstrates the attributes of a knowledgeable, accomplished clinician, and dedicated and tireless instructor, and a principled, compassionate leader.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Taylor A. Banks and Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Peter A. Learn earned the Lt. Gen. Claire L. Chennault faculty recognition awards for overall excellence, professional medical expertise and personality traits of innovativeness, fairness, leadership and tenacity in the face of adversity as determined by a selection committee.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Lisa C. Young, received the Chennault award for outstanding psychiatry faculty member for overall excellence in teaching, supervising, mentoring, research and leadership, and who has contributed to the advancement of GME psychiatry training programs.

Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Matthew J. Bradley, earned the GME mentor award as the faculty member who has had a profound impact on an individual or group of individuals as a mentor.

The Internal Medicine Team of Navy Lt. (Dr.) Thomas E. Mellor, Army Capt. (Dr.) Sarah M. Ordway and Army Capt. (Dr.) Zachary C. Junga earned the Innovative Curriculum Award for developing a GME curriculum that significantly improves resident education or patient outcomes.

Patricia A. Bass earned the Program Coordinator of the Year Award for outstanding contributions toward the success of NCC residency and fellowship programs.

Army Capt. (Dr.) Richard L. Purcell (clinical research) and Navy Lt. (Dr.) Jenna N. Nadolsky (laboratory research) earned the Bailey K. Ashford Award, presented annually to the WRNMMC house staff member judged to have accomplished the most outstanding research during training.

And those earning the Robert A. Phillips Award included: Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Christine M. Puthwala (resident clinical study); Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Whittney A. Warren (fellow clinical study); Army Capt. (Dr.) Patrick D. Grimm (resident laboratory study); Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Katherine N. Vu (fellow laboratory study); Navy Lt. (Dr.) Kenneth R. Feehs (poster) and Army Maj. (Dr.) Rebecca M. Ortolano (poster). The RAP award recognizes the outstanding individual research projects in both staff/fellow and resident categories presented during the annual National Capital Region Military Research Competition.​