WRNNMC, Bethesda, Md. –
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) hosted a Black History Month observance featuring retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Norvell “Van” Coots. Coots served as the last commander of the Walter Reed Health Care System, headquartered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), before the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) of 2005, which consolidated the National Naval Medical Center and (WRAMC), culminating in the opening of WRNMMC .
Coots currently serves as the chairman of the Board for Maryland Physicians Care and concurrently presides over the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center Hospital. In addition, he serves as the chairman of the Board for Maryland Physicians Care and concurrently presides over the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center Hospital. Amid the challenges posed by the pandemic, he contributed significantly as an integral member of the Governor of Maryland’s Covid-19 Task Force.
“The military is a microcosm of America, and it is uniquely poised to lead the charge to realize health equity and health equality," emphasized Coots, whose vast medical experience in the public and private sectors has informed his ability to recognize disparate gaps in access and coverage to quality health care by marginalized communities.
During his presentation titled “Health Equity: African Americans and the Arts,” Coots traced his journey into medicine, paying homage to his parents – both of whom were physicians. Although he originally attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he transferred to Howard University to earn his undergraduate degree before enrolling at the University of Oklahoma to attend medical school.
Attendees at this week’s observance inside the iconic Memorial Auditorium were captivated by Coots’ narrative and photos: a life story demonstrating resilience in overcoming racial bias by employing his parents’ ethos of treating everyone with dignity and recognizing the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
While in uniform, Coots served as the deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command and assistant surgeon general for the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. Particularly notable was his role as the final commander of the historic Walter Reed Health Care System and the hospital at Walter Reed Army Medical from 2008 to 2011.
In recognition of his exceptional achievement, he was named among Becker’s Hospital Review’s “105 Physician Leaders to Know” in 2019 and “145 Physicians Leaders to Know” in 2023, sponsored by the American Medical Association.