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Women in DHA create impact across the federal health community

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, former director of the Defense Health Agency, accepts the Lifetime Achievement Award from FedHealthIT during their Leading for Impact in Federal IT & Consulting, Women in Leadership Conference in Arlington, Va. (DHA Photo by Hannah Wagner) Retired Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, former director of the Defense Health Agency, accepts the Lifetime Achievement Award from FedHealthIT during their Leading for Impact in Federal IT & Consulting, Women in Leadership Conference in Arlington, Va. (DHA Photo by Hannah Wagner)

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Leadership at the Defense Health Agency has been defined through directors who have made lasting impact in military medicine. Two of these trailblazers were recognized for their influence as women in the health field at the Leading for Impact in Federal IT & Consulting, Women in Leadership Conference hosted by FedHealthIT in Arlington, Virginia

The Oct. 30 event featured current Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Terry Adirim, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP as a keynote panelist and Impact 2019 Award winner, with former DHA director and retired Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

The conference shines a spotlight on women creating impact – leading organizations and mission-focused strategic programs across the federal technology and consulting community, which Bono praised during her acceptance speech.

“Collective impact sounds really good, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of courage,” Bono said. “As I look at all of [the conference winners] standing up here onstage, I think finally we have some other people with some courage.”

Terry Adirim, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, acting principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, talks about the future of technology and health care during FedHealthIT’s Leading for Impact in Federal IT & Consulting, Women in Leadership Conference in Arlington, Va. (DHA Photo by Hannah Wagner)
Terry Adirim, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, acting principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, talks about the future of technology and health care during FedHealthIT’s Leading for Impact in Federal IT & Consulting, Women in Leadership Conference in Arlington, Va. (DHA Photo by Hannah Wagner)

Adirim and Bono also exemplify these traits with their experience in the Military Health System helping the agency provide quality, patient-centered care to over 9.4 million active-duty service members, retirees, and families.

In her role at MHS, Adirim advises the assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs on clinical policies and programs, including oversight of quality assessment and improvement, patient safety, mental health services, and population-based health care management across the MHS. As one of two women currently in positions of leadership at MHS, Adirim provides necessary perspective to the executive team.

When asked how to best formulate change within an organization, Adirim noted, “Tenacity is the number one attribute needed for innovative success.”

Bono, who retired from military service earlier this year, displayed that tenacity during her time at DHA. She became the first female Navy medical officer to achieve three-star rank while serving in numerous government leadership positions before taking over as the director of DHA during a whirlwind of change. When the then-2-year-old agency was asked to evolve with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017, Bono kept DHA on a forward-thinking path, thanks in part to 36 years of military experience.

“Things are changing very quickly,” Bono said, “and we need to maintain a level of agility and responsiveness.”

Bono oversaw the awarding of $57 billion contracts to two managed-care contractors to operate regional health care networks in the eastern and western United States alongside TRICARE. Bono was also in charge when DHA began its efforts to consolidate all of the military hospitals across the nation and abroad in one organization.

“It is so important that we come together and make impact,” Bono said, “and always keep our patient front and center of what we do.”

Joanne Chiedi, acting inspector general in the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, called Bono’s career “inspirational.” Adirim said she and the rest of DHA would continue implementing Bono’s plan for the future of military health care, emphasizing technological progress within the agency as the best way to take that next step.

“If we continue to use technologies like MHS GENESIS and others within the Military Health System,” Adirim said, “we can continue to provide the best care for all of our beneficiaries.”

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