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A passion for helping and leading: Nurse leads Air Force Medical Service

Image of Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, Air Force Surgeon General, pauses during a tour through the Heart, Lung & Vascular Center, David Grant USAF Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base, California, Feb. 10, 2020. Hogg visited with 60th Medical Group Airmen and recognized the positive impact they have on their community through their innovative medical practices. (U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

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WASHINGTON (AFNS) — A profession that faces disease and trauma and requires long hours on their feet may deter some, but for nurses, this profession was chosen to serve and ensure the health of those who live in their communities.

“I have always had an affinity for helping people and come from a family that has a lot of nurses,” said Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, Air Force surgeon general. “It was just something that was part of my nature – I love helping others. From a young age, I knew I was going to be a nurse.”

In 1984, Hogg would commission in the Air Force as a nurse, making her childhood dream a reality.

“Every day I take care of patients is a proud day for me, because I look at it as doing the very best I can to help somebody else out with a struggle they might be dealing with,” she explained. “If I can just give them a little bit of comfort or a little bit of peace, it is all that I can ask for.”

During her 36-year career in the Air Force, Hogg has climbed through the ranks and became the first nurse, as well as the first woman, to hold the position of Air Force surgeon general.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be sitting here as the Air Force’s surgeon general,” she said. “I have always looked at every opportunity that either the Air Force or nursing has given me to make not only myself better, but to make the environment I am in better.” With these words echoing in her head, she reminds her fellow nurses and Airmen to never close any doors.

The position didn’t come easy. Early in her career, nurses were not seen as leaders within the medical system. Overcoming this barrier helped Hogg develop her leadership acumen. Today, the medical system is much more team-based where every medical professional brings their knowledge and skills to the bedside. Hogg’s formula for success is three-fold: One is too small a number to achieve success, teamwork and attitude. All great leaders had people in front of, behind and beside them. Hogg said, “No one does this by themselves, and it’s important to grow all members on the team. And last, attitude is everything. As the old saying goes, is your glass half full or half empty?"

As surgeon general, Hogg is leading the largest Military Health System transformation with her other surgeon generals and the Defense Health Agency Director. She restructured the Air Force Medical Service into a more agile, lethal force by developing the Air Force Medical Readiness Agency and installation operational medical readiness squadrons. She’s led research on pilot cancer rates, water contamination and improving human performance across the broad spectrum of operational, humanitarian and disaster response missions.

“If someone says I need you to do this job, you might not think you can do it, but that person sees something in you, so go for it,” she said. “Take advantage of every opportunity the Air Force gives you, because you will learn more about yourself and become a better nurse, a better leader, a better officer and a better individual.”

As the country faces a pandemic, Hogg recognized the contributions the nurse corps has made during this time of need. She has one message for all first responders.

“Thank you; I thank you from the bottom of my heart for stepping in during very challenging times to take care of our service members and our nation as a whole,” she said. “Your selfless service to the profession of nursing and arms goes without saying. The human touch you provide to your patients can’t be substituted by a machine. And it’s that touch your patients will remember. I am proud to represent all our nurses both home and abroad, military and civilian.”

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