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Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences installs new president

The Honorable Peter Levine, performing the duties of the under secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, presents the ceremonial mace to Dr. Richard W. Thomas, president of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, officially installing Thomas as the university's sixth leader (Photo by Air Force SSgt. Stephanie Morris, Uniformed Services University). The Honorable Peter Levine, performing the duties of the under secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, presents the ceremonial mace to Dr. Richard W. Thomas, president of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, officially installing Thomas as the university's sixth leader (U.S. Air Force photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Morris)

With its mission to prepare future generations of health care professionals, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USU) welcomed its sixth president, Dr. Richard Thomas on Dec. 9, 2016. The presidential installation and investiture ceremony took place at USU in Bethesda, Maryland.

“Being a university president is certainly an honor and privilege, but this is the premier federal institution for educating our health care professionals so it is a distinct honor for me to be the president here,” said Thomas. “Our main mission is to educate health care professionals to support the services, our armed forces and our nation, and make sure we’re ensuring the health readiness of the armed forces.”

Dr. Ronald Blanck, USU Board of Regents chairman, said Thomas has an extensive background in leadership positions in military medicine. “We’re very pleased that Dr. Thomas, both a dentist and a physician with many, many years of military experience and leadership positions, is taking over the helm of this institution, which has grown over the course of the five previous presidents in size, in scope and in maturing its partnerships,” he said.

Thomas, a retired Army major general deployed for Operations Just Cause, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, has served as commanding general of Western Regional Medical Command, surgeon general for the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and senior medical adviser for the international Security Assistance Forces Joint Command-Afghanistan – to name a few.

“This presidency should take it to the next level, whatever that is,” said Blanck. “He now takes leadership of America’s health university as it increasingly assumes a central role in medical and health education and training within DoD and public health service,” he said.

Before becoming USU president, Thomas was the chief medical officer and director of the Defense Health Agency Healthcare Operations Directorate. His background in academia includes positions as director of the Department of Surgery Research Program at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington, and adjunct faculty and staff surgeon at both the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, and American Lake Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Tacoma.

Dr. Jonathan Woodson, director of the Institute for Health System Innovation and Policy at Boston University, called the investiture a time to renew commitment to the university’s underlying values and goals and a time to imagine greater possibilities.

“The research, the programs and curriculum here at Uniformed Services University and what it has developed spurs innovation and enables the Military Health System to thrive,” said Woodson, who served as the assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs from 2010-2016. He described Thomas as a strategic leader who can make astute assessments, build teams to successfully accomplish the mission and realize the expanded vision for USU. “Dr Thomas embodies the excellence of this university and continues to inspire all of us.”

As president, Thomas advises the assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and the surgeons general on issues relating to the graduate health professions in education and health care research.

“People who raise their hand and volunteer to serve in our armed forces deserve the best health care possible and that’s seen here at USU,” said Thomas. “This is the foundation for training, educating and preparing health care leaders for the future.” 

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