What was my biggest obstacle?
I don't think I ever faced any obstacles in the way to accomplishing anything, except those I put in my own way. If I wasn't willing to work hard enough to do something, then I didn't get it then. But really, I think everything I've really desperately wanted to do, I was able to work hard enough to accomplish it. I think one of the things I have told [people]and I've spoken at graduationswhether it's from college, high school, or grade schoolis: do not let other people's expectations of you limit your expectations of yourself. I remember when I was in high school, I did quite well. I graduated at the end of my junior year, I was 16, and I got a full tuition scholarship to go to college. But, I wasn't always the "perfect kid." And I also didn't hang out with a bunch of other people necessarily who were in that same... "I'm gonna go to college tomorrow" kind of mold. And I remember I'm standing in line to graduate, and I'm the national merit scholar kind, ...and the principal comes over to me and says, "You know... we never thought you'd make it." And I said, "Well, you know? There was never any doubt in my mind." Do not let what your folks did, or what your neighbors did, or what they all think you can do, limit what you try to do. I guess that was my message for myself, and I think it was a pretty good one.
How do I make a difference?
Certainly my experience in the Gulf Warboth going to the front with a unit, and being captured, and coming out of it successfully, that was not what was expected to happen to women in the military at that time. We had risk rules, and we had "no women in combat" kind of things. I've had people ask medo I think I set a new standard or somethingwell, no. I think the standard was already set. This is what we expect people to do in these situations. I think all I did was demonstrate that women are just as likely to be able to achieve those standards as anyone else. And since we demonstrated that, then they had less justification for continuing to exclude women from those roles. So it was about two years after the Gulf War, that they opened up, for example, combat aircraft to women. And they've done very well in Kosovo, and they've done very well in Afghanistan, and they've done very well in the Iraq war. Iraqi Freedom. So it's not even news any more that they're doing those missions. So I think if I had any contribution, it was helping to open some of those doors that were otherwise closed; and the POW experience, while unfortunate personally, was important. Because that had been one of the reasons that people gave. Well, women, if they go to war, might get captured. Well, yes, they might, and we come out just like the guys who get captured. You know, you fix your broken bones, and you go back to work.
Who was my mentor?
I had some people who were very important to me. Certainly my grandparents were an outstanding example, in terms of hard work, dedication, commitment, staying on task. And my grandfather was a Marine in World War II. I have great respect for what those guys did. Scholastically I think it must have been tenth grade. Tenth grademy tenth grade science teacher... my tenth grade chemistry teacher, Pitsa Cardi, really, probably is the reason why I wanted to be a scientist. He was a chemist, he'd been an industrial chemist, and then came back and taught high school after that. And I was really excited by chemistry, it made sense, it was challenging... and he was such a great guy. One of the most fun things I got to do was help write the justification for him, then help deliver him getting the America Chemicals Society Teacher of the Year when I got back... He was retiring, and it washere we are 15 years later or something. Because it was an opportunity to give back something to him. I feel confident that if it had not been for that one experience, I could have gone down a way different path.
How has my career evolved over time?
I had no military experience, and really no military aspirations or knowledge until I was in graduate school, getting my Ph.D. in nutrition and biochemistry. And then I went to an FACEB meeting-- Federation of Experimental Biologyand I was giving a talk, and after my talk was finished, this man came and he looked like a perfectly normal person, came in a business suitsaid: "You know, we're looking for somebody who does exactly that kind of research in our lab." He says: "The only catch is, you'd have to join the army."
Now, how I got into military medicine, I did research at Letterman for four years, and then wanted to do more clinical human research, and decided we better do that with an M.D. as well as a Ph.D., so then I went to med school.
You know, I'm a physician, I've worked at Brook Army Medical Center; I've worked at Walter Reed, and the Walter Reed Research Center. I've worked at UCRAL, the Aero-medical Research Lab, and have gotten to do a lot of really cool things; but at the same time they encourage you to jump out of airplanes, and rappel out of helicopters...
When Gulf war one startedOperation Desert Shieldthat was August of '90. So I went, basically what I did, I had a group of five medics and myself, who took care of the battalion, which was 335 people all toldpilots, mechanics, cooks. So we went about two weeks later, I guess it was still in early August of '90, went to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Lived somewhat miserably for a long time and then in January we deployed out into the desert out west, and then when the war started, moved north.
When I went to Bosnia, I went in March of 2001. I was the Medical Task Force Commander. So I had a very small about 20-bed hospital there. We also had the veterinary services. We had the preventive medicine services. We had the six helicopters for medical evacuation, that's what we did there.
With my current position, I'm the Commander of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. It's now the biggest, the hub for where people are evacuated when they're injured or ill, and anybodybasically any conflict the military has in the Middle East or in Europe. And in fact, most people that are injured in Africa come then through Lahdstuhl. So it is certainly the evacuation hub for all the services. It's not an exclusively army thing any longer, it is Air Force and Army; in fact, I'd say probably a third of the medical staff is Air Force there. But not only do we have a very large population of family members, and dependents who live in Europe who also take advantage of our services; and I really happen to like doing operational medicineso if I can't go to the field, and I can't go jump out of the helicopter with somebody, this is the closest thing I can get to, and I just really like it.
The National War College that I went to last year, was really a great experience. Basically, we learnt about military strategy. But in order to learn something about military strategy, you have to learn about national security, policy, and international relations, and the best part about itI thinkhas been the other people who are at it. Because it's not a single service, it's not just military... we have all services representedwe have the Coast Guard, we have people from the CIA, we have people from the FBI, we have people from the State Department, we have people from the Department of Energy. So you meet people who are going to, people in your class are going to be the senior leaders of their respective organizations and they're all successful, they're all bright, they're all secure. So it's just an opportunity to meet with a world-class group of people that all know something different than you do, so they're really interesting. In addition the other really great things about the War CollegeI really had a wonderful year. They say it's going to be the best year of your life, and it may have been close to have beenwe have a world-class faculty as well, but we also have the international students. So, colonels, generally, and a couple of one-star generals, from nations from all over the world. They have a very important perspective. It's one of the opportunities that we get to understand how they see things, and how what we do can be interpreted. And that's, I think, really important.