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News | June 18, 2024

More than 200 health care providers graduate from National Capital Consortium GME programs

By Bernard Little

More than 220 health care providers graduated from over 70 Graduate Medical Education (GME) programs in the National Capital Consortium (NCC) and at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) during a ceremony June 14 at the Strathmore Music Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Graduates included NCC Medical Corps interns, residents and fellows, and WRNMMC residents and fellows and are Army, Navy, Air Force and Canadian service members. In addition to WRNMMC, the NCC includes the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), Alexander T. Augusta Military Medical Center at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and 316th Medical Group – Joint Base Andrews (Malcolm Grown Medical Clinics and Surgery Center).

“It feels great,” said U.S Navy Lt. (Dr.) John Hatgas about completing the general surgery internship program. “It’s been long, but fulfilling,” he added. From Walter Reed, Hartgas goes to undersea medical officer training in Groton, Connecticut. “I’m looking forward to being out in the fleet and operational, taking care of Sailors and Marines,” he added.

U.S. Army Capt. (Dr.) Kavitha Prasanna, graduating from the diagnostic radiology residency program, expressed similar sentiments. She said she appreciated the Walter Reed staff and various trainees coming together, and “the growth we achieved over the years.” Her next assignment is at Fort Eisenhower in Georgia, where she will be providing diagnostic radiology for Military Health System beneficiaries in advancing their care.

U.S. Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Marianna S. Caballero, a graduate of the pediatrics residency program, said she is also looking forward to the patient care she will provide as the only pediatrician at Andersen Air Force Base Medical Treatment Facility in Guam. Caballero also recently earned first place in Walter Reed’s Department of Research Program’s 2024 Paul Florentino Patient and Family-Centered Care and Performance, Quality Improvement poster competitions. Her team’s work focused on a multidisciplinary approach to improve screening for sleep disorder breathing in pediatric patients with sickle cell disease. Patient and family-centered care puts patients and their families at the heart of medicine, and performance and quality improvement in research boost the caliber of care and teamwork, hallmarks of Walter Reed.

Dr. Eric Elster, dean of the F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine at USU and co-chair of the NCC Board of Directors, said graduates of the NCC and Walter Reed GME programs have been in training to graduate from internships, residencies and fellowships at treatment facilities across the National Capital Region from one to eight years. “Every one of these graduates has met the highest standards of preparation. The NCC has achieved a 97 percent first time board examination pass rate. This speaks not only to quality of training, but also to the talent and dedication of each of these [graduates],” Elster said.

Brig. Gen. Deydre Teyhen, director of the Defense Health Network National Capital Region and co-chair of the NCC Board of Directors, served as guest speaker for the graduation, sharing with them that they are now leaders. “Leadership is not just about directing others, but inspiring and uplifting others. Your success as a leader in military health care will be measured not by your individual achievements, but the accomplishments of those you lead on your team. Strive to create an environment in which every team member feels valued, empowered and motivated to achieve their best. Lead with integrity, compassion and a relentless commitment to excellence.”

Teyhen encouraged the graduates to also build diverse teams. She said this will result in better decisions and better outcomes. “In health care, we know that the better our diversity the better we are at meeting the needs of our patients,” she added.

“Communicate with empathy, lead well and invest in building strong teams,” Teyhen urged the graduates, as they prepare to head off to assignments around the globe to care for the nation’s heroes and their families.
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