From the category archives:

Hopkins Speaks

I live in Bel Air and have had to take my 86-year-old mother-in-law to the Wilmer Eye Institute twice in the past week. Last week was our first visit. It was a little confusing finding our way around the first time like any big building would be. From our initial stop to check in, to our two appointments at Wilmer, to our visit to both the Outpatient Clinic for blood work as well as the Imaging Clinic for an x-ray, every single Hopkins employee we interacted with could not have been more professional, helpful, and friendly.

My mother-in-law was apprehensive about going "all the way" down to Baltimore, but the way the staff dealt with her disarmed her immediately and made her feel comfortable and relaxed the entire time. I've been to hospitals around the country for a wide variety of reasons. Simply put, none of them comes close to our experience at Johns Hopkins. None. I even witnessed patients helping other patients. In a hospital!

When we were a little lost -- okay, fine, we were a lot lost -- people with Johns Hopkins badges went out of their way to help us find our way. My only regret is not getting the names of everyone who helped us. I've been to high end hotels who don't treat you like we were treated there. So please pass this along to whoever is in charge and include my sincere thanks for everything. As long as I'm in Maryland, I'll never go anywhere else!

Patient, The Johns Hopkins Hospital

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Dear Health Care Team Members:

I am a very happy and pleased Johns Hopkins patient. In January 2011, I was referred to Johns Hopkins for treatment of my lung disease. The only cure for my disease was a bilateral lung transplant, which took place on December 18, 2011. While I have had excellent success with my transplant, I have had the opportunity to return to the hospital (six admissions and nine outpatient procedures requiring anesthesia) and outpatient center (over 100 office visits and over 700 tests or studies) for subsequent medical care.  I realize I will continue to be a Johns Hopkins patient for the rest of my life.

Recently, I had the opportunity to be the patient member on the panel at the Town Meeting on September 8, 2015 discussing Patient and Family Centered Care (Also read the Patient Wish List blog of 10 things a patient would like to share with his or her care team.) One of the questions dealt with the patient survey, which patients receive and answer about their patient experience. As I mentioned in my remarks, one of the key factors that affects my patient experience is my health care team. While I was able to make a few remarks about my team members, I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with a little more information about my health care team. It is a very dynamic health care team composed of many members of Johns Hopkins Hospital and Outpatient Center staff.  I have divided my health care team into two groups: The face to face group and the behind the scene group.

The face to face group is composed of the following team members:

My Admitting Team

  1. The security guard who clears me for entering the hospital and, with colleagues, keeps me, my family and my health care team safe 24/7.
  2. The admitting clerk who process my paperwork to make sure I do not have to spend time with my insurance company or others doing paperwork.

My Patient Room Team

  1. All the physicians including fellows, residents and interns who are responsible for my medical care.
  2. All of my nurses who provide my nursing care and the nurse manager for the unit.
  3. The medical technicians who assist my nurses in my medical care.
  4. The environmental care associates and environmental care technicians who clean my room.
  5. The nutrition assistants who deliver my meals.
  6. The phlebotomists who draw my blood.
  7. The imaging technologists who take x-rays in my room.
  8. The case manager who is planning my discharge.
  9. The transportation specialists who transport me from my room to my procedures/diagnostic tests on time and to the right place.
  10. Administrative staff assigned to my nursing unit.
  11. Anybody else that walks in my room.

My Procedures/Diagnostic Test Team

  1. The receptionist who greets me and makes sure the paperwork matches why I am there.
  2. The physicians who provide my procedure/diagnostic tests.
  3. The radiologist and pathologist who review my results or pathology and interpret the results.
  4. The nurses involved in my procedure/diagnostic test and who try to keep me comfortable throughout.
  5. The technicians involved in my procedure/diagnostic test who are either performing the diagnostic test or making sure the equipment and instruments are ready.

My Telephone Team

  1. The dietary technicians who take my telephone meal order and assure I am ordering the right foods for me.
  2. The administrative staff I contact with all sorts of questions. They know just where to connect me for answers.

My Outpatient Center Team

  1. The physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant who will be evaluating and taking care of me.
  2. The nurses who will be assisting the provider with their assessments and care.
  3. The medical technicians who is taking my vital signs.
  4. The front desk clerks who process my appointment paperwork.
  5. The discharge clerks who process my discharge and schedule my follow up appointments.
  6. The radiology administrative assistants who match my paperwork for the test.
  7. The radiology technicians who perform my test.
  8. The radiologist who reviews my test and writes a report.
  9. The lab admitting clerks who process my lab order.
  10. The phlebotomists who draw my blood.
  11. The lab technicians who perform the lab study and enter the data in my medial record.
  12. The pathologists who review my laboratory/pathology studies and interpret the results.
  13. The security guards who check me in when I enter the outpatient center and give me directions to my appointment or help guide me if I am lost.
  14. The parking cashiers who process my parking ticket and wish me a good day.

As you can see, this is a large and dynamic health care team, but that is only the face to face group. Let me discuss my behind the scene group. They are throughout the organization.

  1. The food preparers who will be preparing the food to be cooked for me.
  2. The cooks who will be cooking my food.
  3. The servers on the food line who will be preparing my tray.
  4. All the food supervisors who are responsible for my food service team.
  5. The pharmacists who review my medications to prevent negative interactions and side effects.
  6. The pharmacy technicians who prepare my medications for delivery to the floor.
  7. All the pharmacy supervisors who are responsible for my pharmacy team members.
  8. The lab technicians who conduct all my lab analysis and report the findings into my record.
  9. All the lab supervisors who are responsible for my lab team.
  10. The security staff throughout the campus who insure my safety and the safety of my family and those who work here.
  11. The administrative staff throughout the hospital and outpatient center who process my appointments, file my claims, record my payments or any other administrative action I require.
  12. The information technology team who keep all the information technology working together to assure all the data about me connects to those who need it including me (MyChart).
  13. All the supervisors and their supervisors of my health care team members.

When I, a patient, think about my health care experience as I fill out my survey form, all the actions by each member of my health care team members are carefully considered as I evaluate my patient experience. Some of you may not have considered yourself as part of my team, but to me you clearly are team members. Each of you plays a role in my patient experience regardless which group you are in. Naturally, my face to face team members get more of my direct attention, but I have not forgotten about the behind the scene team members and the role you play. Being one of my health care team members is not easy. You have to make sure that everything that I am experiencing works like a finely turned, well organized, coordinated, happy and respectful health care team.

Although, I will never have the opportunity to meet some of you, especially my behind the scene team members; I want you to know I value what you do for me as a member of my health care team. I want to thank each of you for providing me with a great patient experience. You have given me a very special gift – the gift of life – and I sincerely thank all my health care team members for their individual contribution.

Warmest personal regards,

Podge M. Reed, Jr.

Proud Johns Hopkins Patient

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The inaugural Dancing with the Hopkins Stars event on Tuesday, May 26, features 20 Johns Hopkins stars and dancers who have been rehearsing for months in preparation for their big night on stage in support of United Way. Learn more about each of the dancers and check out a few photos at hopkinsmedicine.org/unitedway/dwths. Here’s what a few of them had to say about the whole experience.

What were your initial thoughts when you were asked to participate?

“I was initially very excited and then I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what have I gotten myself into?’” – Julie McArthur

“I was like, ‘are you sure?’ But I was excited. I thought about Jacoby Jones, Emmitt Smith and other professional athletes who were on the show. I thought if they can do it, I can do it.” – Darren Brownlee

“Terrified, absolutely terrified. I’m still terrified. I’m more nervous about this than anything I’ve ever done. Even more nervous than giving my one kidney away – they was nobody watching then and I was asleep. And I couldn’t fall off the table.” – Pamela Paulk

“I was excited. I thought it was an opportunity to do something different and fun. I’ve only done ‘party dancing,’ but not professional dancing.” – Corey Rhames

“I thought they must have made a mistake.” – Pablo Celnik

“I was really excited. I’ve participated in these events in the South for really unique causes, and all the ballrooms in Savannah participated, so I thought it was really cool that Johns Hopkins was doing this sort of fundraiser.” – Katherine Marks

What have rehearsals been like?

“The first one was probably the best one we’ve had [laughing]. It was the basics; we were doing boxes. The Viennese Waltz is all about boxes, so we’ve done boxes and boxes and boxes.” – Alan Partin

“At the first rehearsal Elliot moved really well to one song in particular, so we’ve just been building on that one song. I want him to have the opportunity for his personality to shine. We had rehearsal yesterday…and it is shining!” – Allison Agwu

“We get to this point where we’re like, ‘don’t tell me to do something new’ and then the choreographers get together and you can see their wheels turning, and we look at each other and we’re like ‘oh no!’” – Elizabeth Tracey

“Our first training session was fantastic – Joann and I clicked like old friends. I was fascinated by her energy and happiness!” – Lucio Gama

“All I knew about Pablo was that he was from Argentina, where I had learned to tango. When I told him how much I loved dancing in Argentina and that men were great dancers, he quickly apologized for not being one of those good dancers. It’s such a lie, he's great!” – Arielle Medford

What are you most excited for?

“Personally, I’m just hoping I’m still employed.” – Landon King

“Channeling our inner John Travoltas!” – Kathryn Ries

“Dancing is fun and great exercise. It reminds me of my youth when I was care-free.” – JoAnn Ioannou

“I’m doing something I love, we’re doing something for the greater good, and I’m having fun for the greater good. There’s nothing better than that.” – Monica Compel

“I like learning something new. You get to have a learning curve, and that’s fun.” – Joseph Califano

Who is your biggest competitor?

“It’s going to be interesting to see this group of Johns Hopkins leaders participate in the competition. You know that every single person is going to work very hard, so I’m actually pretty nervous. I think everyone is going look great.” – Erika Benson

“For me, as a male, my biggest competitor is Landon King. He’s been so into this, practicing daily, and is really excited about doing this. I think he’s going to destroy the competition.” – Dorry Segev

“From a dancing perspective and a fundraising perspective, they’re all threatening. Oncology is a big department so we’re going to have a big turnout. I’m looking forward to competing against Alan Partin for the urology/prostate part of this. Landon King, that’s just formidable. Pamela Paulk came in during one of our sessions and I know she has been practicing all the time.” – Michael Carducci

 

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In recognition of National Nurses Week 2015, a few of our Johns Hopkins nurses shared their inspiration behind becoming a nurse. What led you to the field of nursing? Share your thoughts here.

"In 2000, my best friend's daughter suddenly became critically ill and was rushed to the PICU. I was so impressed with the depth and breadth of the nurses' knowledge, and their ability to balance such compassion and competence. They inspired me to become a nurse, as I wanted to help others the way they helped us.” -- Vanessa Velez, Nurse Clinician

"At age 19, my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I watched how the nurses cared for her and supported our whole family during that stressful, emotional time. They truly inspired me, and I realized I wanted to be that support for other patients and families.” -- Melissa Rosenblum, Nurse Clinician>

"From an early age I was fascinated by how all the systems of the human body work together. While studying for my Bachelors of Science in Biology, I quickly realized that nursing would allow me to have greatest impact on a patient's health and wellbeing via direct hands-on care." -- Mike Cox, Nurse Clinician

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We asked, they answered! In preparation for the first Dancing with the Hopkins Stars, here is an exclusive interview with each of the four judges. Channeling their inner television personalities, they are gearing up for the big event on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, at 5:30 p.m. in Turner Auditorium at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. For more information visit hopkinsmedicine.org/unitedway/dwths.

 

Redonda Miller, Vice President for Medical Affairs for The Johns Hopkins Hospital | Carrie Ann Inaba

Q: We heard you are brushing up on your dance vocabulary. What are some technical skills or moves you will be looking for in each performance?

“Enthusiasm and energy are the most important qualities I will be looking for in the contestants. As far as technical skills, each type of dance has its own set of technical elements which will be important for each couple to master. Personally, however, I am a fan of classic moves. Anyone who can incorporate the "moonwalk" or "jazz hands" into their performance will move way up in my scoring. Points will be deducted for twerking.”

Ron Ziegelstein, Vice Dean for Education for the School of Medicine | Len Goodman

Q: Since Len Goodman is known to be the more serious of the judges, how are you prepared to embody his character?

“Many people think of me as a fairly easy-going guy, always ready to share a humorous story or tell a lighthearted joke. But that’s only here at work. Dancing is my life, and I will leave no room for levity as a judge of this competition. Frankly, my goal is not to embody the character of Len Goodman; he’s a clown compared to me.”

Shawn Celio, Assistant Director of Human Resources for the School of Medicine | Bruno Tonioli

Q: How are you prepared to “be” the animated Bruno Tonioli when giving feedback to the dancers? 

“I look forward to meeting all the wonderful and magnificent dancers strut their stuff. I can’t wait to see the business and clinical attire replaced with elegant and handsome tailored attire. I will be keeping an eye on the dance moves as well as pushing fashion forward. I am honored to be a judge for the Dancing with the Hopkins Stars. I am fired up to watch the stars come out and shine on the dance floor in front of their colleagues, friends and family members. I promise to take my high energy to the next level to provide honest, lavish and inspired feedback to the dancers…..while balancing integrity and the rawness of each dance. Let the games begin and time to spice it up a bit.”

Lisa Maragakis, Director of the Department of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control for The Johns Hopkins Hospital | Professional Dancer

Q: As a dancer yourself, what are some dance moves that would shock or surprise you to see?

“I think that I will be most surprised if we see complicated lifts during the dance routines. These can be very technical and sometimes even a bit dangerous so they take a lot of coordination and practice. The dancers have been working very hard and practicing diligently so I look forward to seeing all of the great moves these teams have put together!”

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LeviLevi Watkins, M.D., (1944-2015) was a medical pioneer, civil rights trailblazer and founder of Johns Hopkins' annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration in 1982. How do you remember Dr. Watkins? Did he perform surgery on a loved one, share a laugh with you, mentor you or provide guidance in your career?

Leave a comment below to share your memories of Dr. Watkins.

Listen to Dr. Watkins' remarks at the 2015 MLK Commemoration about tolerance and his introduction of a tribute to Maya Angelou.

View a brief video from Selwyn Vickers, who in 2013 became the first
African-American senior vice president and dean of the University of Alabama at
Birmingham School of Medicine, of how Dr. Watkins made a difference his medical career.

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In a sub-basement of The Johns Hopkins Hospital lies the lifeline of Johns Hopkins: the 120-member Lifeline transport team, including Communications Supervisor Heidi Hubble. With a firefighter and paramedic for parents, she grew up discussing accident scenes and medical calls over family dinners, which led her to become an emergency medical technician (EMT) at age 16. She continued working in the field of emergency services temporarily while thinking about a career path, but more than 20 years later, she’s happy she never tried anything else.

At Johns Hopkins, what is Lifeline’s role?

Lifeline was developed because patients were coming in the door much sicker than when they left home or another medical institution. Rather than waiting for patients to come in to begin receiving Johns Hopkins care, Lifeline was created to bring Johns Hopkins care to the patient.

Lifeline’s responsibilities include transporting patients in or out of the Johns Hopkins Health System by one of six Lifeline ambulances or by air in the Lifeline helicopter; transporting patients from unit to unit within The Johns Hopkins Hospital; responding to code events on the East Baltimore campus; and transporting patients to and from Sibley Memorial and Suburban Hospitals.

What does a typical day look like for you?

We never know what the day will bring, but for me, that is the exciting part of the job. I supervise a team of 17 within the Lifeline Communications Center, where we coordinate details for every patient transport, which is more than 50,000 a year. I am also the acting manager for the 15-member team supporting the Hopkins Access Line (HAL), a centralized system for outside medical institutions to call when they want to transfer a patient into the Johns Hopkins Health System.

How has Lifeline been involved in Ebola transportation preparation?

All of the Lifeline staff went through Ebola training, so we are all equipped to help with patient transport from an airport, another medical institution, or wherever a patient is coming from. The specialized transport protocol includes a mobile isolation unit, which helps protect the staff while also allowing them to be in close proximity to the patient during transport. Last November we conducted a drill simulating how an Ebola patient would be transported into The Johns Hopkins Hospital, which helped tweak the process.

What’s your most memorable experience on the job?

Several years ago I coordinated transportation for a very sick patient from an out-of-state hospital. When I found out that an open bed was no longer available, I acted as the patient’s advocate and provided frequent updates to worried family members over the two subsequent days it took to find an available bed. Weeks later, the patient’s family came to thank me in person, calling me a “guardian angel.” To me, I was just doing my job and of bringing Johns Hopkins to the patient. It was very touching and a humbling reminder of how important our work really is.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Family is important to me, so spending time with my daughter and maintaining my status as “favorite aunt” to my nieces and nephews are things I love to do. Recently I embraced my inner Jim Henson by learning the craft of becoming a puppeteer, performing in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a local theatre company. I love theatre performances, live music and photography.

What motto do you live by?

Do the right thing! It may not always be the easiest or most popular choice, but you have to be able to sleep at night. As it applies to my line of work, I treat each patient encounter as if it were with one of my own family members.

Click to hear how Hubble feels connected to the Johns Hopkins Medicine Strategic Plan.

 

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The Johns Hopkins 2014–2015 flu campaign is now in full swing, and getting vaccinated is the top priority for those within the Johns Hopkins community. As part of the mandatory flu vaccination policy, all Johns Hopkins Medicine faculty, trainees, students and staff covered by the policy must be compliant by Dec. 2, except for All Children’s Hospital employees, who must be compliant by Nov. 19. Employees who receive vaccinations at off-site locations, including doctors’ offices and retail stores, must provide documentation of vaccination.

For more information on the Johns Hopkins Medicine flu campaign, including dates, times and locations for vaccination, as well as the mandatory flu policy, visit the Johns Hopkins Mandatory Flu Vaccination Campaign website.

So why is it important to get vaccinated? We visited some of the flu vaccination clinics at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and asked for employees’ thoughts on why it’s important, particularly before flu season hits. See their responses below and  be sure to leave a comment and tell us why YOU think it's important to get the flu vaccine.

 

Gurpreet Skinner, medical office supervisor with the Department of Dermatology, shares her thoughts on the importance of the flu vaccine:

Grace_Brzozowski

Grace Brzozowski, program coordinator, pediatrics

“Having had the flu about 20 years ago, I never want to have it again. The fever was high and the headache was bad, and then you just don’t know if that causes you to have other immunity problems as times goes on.”

 

 

Ruth_Lewis

Ruth Lewis, residency program coordinator, radiation oncology

“I’ve had a case of the flu before, and I hadn’t had the shot. After that, I decided that I definitely should. Who wants the body aches and being away from work? Nobody likes being sick.”

 

 

szanton-sarah-bioSarah Szanton, associate professor, school of nursing

“I think that all adults, even if they are healthy, should get a flu shot to help contain the flu and prevent it from spreading to other people. I do think there is some suspicion in the community that they think the shot will give them the flu, so the more people that go out and get the vaccine and don’t get the flu, the better.”

 

 

Millie_RiceMillie Rice, skills enhancement instructor, human resources

“Some people think that because they’ve never had the flu or don’t get colds, they’re not going to put something in them to cure something they don’t have. People need to get the vaccine—they can spread the flu to their families and any other people they’re around. And it doesn’t feel good.”

 

 

Woojin_Song

Woojin Song, research assistant, pediatrics

“It’s important to get a flu shot for my own health, but also because it can also prevent the spread of the flu in the community. I had a bad experience about four or five years ago, and I think I spread it to my friends, so ever since then I get the flu shot every year. ”

 

 

 

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Meet Robbie Vermillion!

 

When your mantra is “No job is impossible and all goals are achievable” and your extracurricular activities include alligator hunting, your life is bound to be adventurous. But Robbie Vermillion, senior project manager for facilities, considers himself “A Simple Man,” as described in his favorite song by Hank Williams Jr. For the past three years, Vermillion has called The Johns Hopkins Hospital his “work home,” and he believes his role is a crucial part of JHM’s Strategic Plan.

 

1.       What does a typical work day look like for you?

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a typical work day in construction. Weather alone is a major issue in the construction of any project. You have to plan around whatever Mother Nature hands to you—from the ice, rain, snow and wind. If a needed crew does not show up, or the materials are not delivered, it can delay a project. Managing a construction project can require constant changes to be able to meet your completion deadline.

 

2.       What’s the most fascinating part of your job?

If I had to choose just one it would be taking a set of construction plans—at first only lines, numbers and letters on paper—and being involved in the day-to-day transformation to a usable building or space. There is a great deal of satisfaction in being able to look at a set of plans—

someone’s vision of what a project should look like—and seeing it come to life..

 

3.       How did you get into design and construction?

Design and construction were always in my blood and therefore an easy choice to pursue. My father and grandfather were carpenters; I had uncles, great uncles and a great-grandfather who were building tradesmen, architects and land developers. I was around building from an early age and was always fascinated by it; and extremely fortunate to have had so many experts in the fields to help and guide my career.

 

4.       How does your job tie into Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Strategic Plan?

I believe my job allows me to touch on all of Johns Hopkins Medicine’s six strategic priorities. If I had to pick one that’s closest to me it would be performance. I want the project I’m working on to be built to the best standards it can be and to efficiently serve the people it was built for. In the past, when a job was completed I had to move on and start another one. Now at Johns Hopkins, I can see firsthand how my project affects the patients, nurses, doctors and visitors that benefit from its completion.

 

5.       What are your hobbies outside of work?

I love the outdoors. I would have to say hunting is my favorite. I’ve hunted game from small to large, with feathers, fur and scales. I just recently returned from a self-guided bow fishing hunt for alligators on several lakes in central Florida. I also love to fish from the Chesapeake Bay to the Atlantic Ocean. I also love my vegetable gardens and my chickens. I can’t describe what a great stress reliever both are when I arrive home in the evening and walk among the chickens and look at what the garden has produced for supper.

 

6.       What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

When I wake in the morning—at 3 a.m. on weekdays—I lay in bed for a few minutes and thank God for the start of another day and to hear one of my roosters crowing his good morning to the world inspires me to get my day started.

 

7.       What would be the theme song to your life?

I have two—“Country Boy Can Survive” and “Simple Man,” both sung by Hank Williams Jr. Both are exactly like my life and I couldn’t have written anything better!

 

8. What have you learned most about yourself (or your biggest AHA moment) while on the job? What I’ve learned most about myself is that no job is impossible and all goals are achievable. Many times you have to step back and change directions and let go of some notions that you held and try something different, but trust what you know to do. Never let the fear of anything hold you back. Fear only comes from having never done it, and once you do it you’ll have nothing else to fear.

 

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This week's post is from Dr. James Gilman, recently retired U.S. Army Major general and commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command, and commander of Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. Dr. Gilman currently serves as the executive director of the Johns Hopkins Military and Veterans Health Institute. Below,  Dr. Gilman shares his remarks from Monday's Veterans Day Commemoration.

Good Morning. Whether you are a veteran yourself and here today to connect with others who served in the military, whether you are here to honor veterans, or whether you just happened to be passing by and curiosity got the better of you, you are welcome and we are glad you are here. Ed Cramer, retired Army Col.; chair of Veterans for Hopkins Group; senior manager, Military Relations & Field Services, Johns Hopkins Uniformed Services Family Health Plan, has already provided some of the history of Veteran’s Day in this country.

As Ed indicated the theme is “honoring all who served”. While I have a small issue with this theme that I will get to in a minute, I want to begin my brief remarks by telling you a short and true story. One of the blessings of my 35 years in uniform was the fact that I only had to spend 1 of the 35 in the Pentagon. It seemed a lot longer than a year at the time but it was only a year. The only good part of being in the Building is that on occasion you get to sit in meetings with some incredible leaders and you get some priceless insights and pearls of wisdom if you keep your ears open.  This story ironically involves then General Erik Shinseki who now heads the Department of Veterans Affairs. The irony is in the fact that Erik Shinseki is currently America’s First Veteran. General Shinseki was then the Chief of Staff of the Army. I was a long way down the food chain and I didn’t get to spend all that much with him and even when I did I was not expected to have much to say.  But there is one meeting that I will never forget and recounting it is apropos to our thoughts today. This encounter occurred sometime near the start of the long conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and the meeting included General Shinseki and the civilian Army leaders responsible for manpower. The specific topic was how to attract a large enough group of individuals with a very specific and somewhat rare skill set to join the Army. The civilian leaders, largely products of corporate America, described a number of financial incentives that could be employed to augment the number of men and women in the Army with this particular skill set. General Shinseki acknowledged that the money would be helpful but we could not make being a Soldier about the money because sooner or later the Army would ask a Soldier to do something for which all the money in the world wouldn’t be enough compensation.    

Since today is about honoring those who served, this little story involving General Shinseki appropriately begins to help us understand what it really means to serve in America’s military. The concept of military service is more complex and perhaps less intuitive than many people think. Just as General Shinseki said, military service may include almost anything asked of the service member and the asking often goes well beyond rank, pay grade, job description, and service-related benefits. Military service, in its most highly developed forms, encompasses the attributes of sacrifice, courage, duty, teamwork, honor, respect for human dignity, and last, but by no means least, unselfishness. Military service in the United States of America also encompasses the concept of justice and the notion that the strong and mighty have a moral obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves. To be sure, it is an America-centric notion of justice but, after all, it is the Constitution of the United States that service members all swear an oath to support and defend. In its highest forms, military service should portray the best part of us as human beings or, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, display the higher angels of our nature. Military service transforms many outside the military whom it touches in the world and many of us are here today because military service transforms those of us who serve.  I am a better man, son, husband, father, grandfather, friend, doctor, employee, and citizen today because of my many years in the Army. I suspect many of you are here today because you feel much the same as I do. Those who say that service carries its own reward could not be more correct.

My problem with the theme for Veterans Day 2013 is the single letter “d” on the end of serve. The service of veterans should never be phrased in the past tense. We did not, cannot, and certainly should not suddenly stop serving this country when our days in uniform end. While I do not presume to speak for you I think that it is a true statement that all those lessons we learned about teamwork, unselfishness, dignity, respect, integrity, and honor are just as applicable here at Johns Hopkins today as they were when I put on a uniform every morning. I have some fear that these are qualities that are not so well understood in many facets of our society today and this lack of understanding relates to a number of America’s well-publicized problems. The example of our service must not be in the past either. It is fine for us to be here today proud to be veterans, to be proud of who we are and what we have done. We have done a noble thing by serving our country honorably. However, the nobility was in what we did together, not in what any one of us accomplished individually. We must regard skeptically any assignment of personal nobility in any form to our service. Our service enables and empowers us but we must be on guard less an undeserved and unhealthy sense of entitlement should develop. We simply must continue to serve. 

Now is also the time for veterans to demonstrate service-oriented leadership. I’m not talking about veterans being elected to public office or being promoted to be the CEO’s of big corporations although there is nothing wrong with either of those pursuits. This is the time for veterans to lead in their homes, their families, their schools, their communities, and their places of work – to demonstrate by their words and their actions what it means to serve – to add value to someone else’s life, to make things better, to help other people, to improve the environment, or simply to make the world a better place without a single thought of what it might be worth or what your contribution’s fair market value happens to be. Our days in uniform may be over but our days in the service of others and our nation simply must not end if America is to remain a great nation.    

These are my thoughts on this Veteran’s Day 2013. My words have been about veterans but also they have been for veterans. I am grateful to veterans for what they have done in the past, for wearing the nation’s cloth and doing her bidding. I am proud to be a member of your ranks. But I am even more grateful for those whose service never ends, those veterans who regard service as a life’s calling, not restricted by the boundaries of the time in uniform. Thank you again for being here. Thank you for listening to me these last few minutes and thank you for taking a moment to remember veterans today.

 

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