Tell us about your role and responsibilities at Accenture Federal Services.
I’m the managing director and client account lead for Military Health. Military Health is composed of five areas: the Defense Health Agency, Army Medicine, Navy Medicine, Air Force Medicine and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
In my role, I am responsible for setting and developing the strategic direction in which Military Health will position itself to be the best partner for our clients and developing our related account plans. I also look to ensure we have the right team in place to support these goals.
Before joining Accenture, you served in the U.S. Army for 33 years. In fact, you held the esteemed position of U.S. Army Surgeon General. Please describe your role.
I had a couple of roles in one position. I was the 43rd Surgeon General overseeing all medicine in support of our Army, and as a joint partner with our sister services. I was also the medical commander for MEDCOM and the department of the Army staff officer. As DA staff officer, I was the senior medical advisor to the chief of staff for the Army, working on any medical issues across the force, from a readiness perspective, training perspective and delivery of healthcare perspective. It was an integrated health system, a training and academia system, as well as a research and logistics system.
You were the first female to be nominated and confirmed in that role. What does that mean to you?
Being the very first female in any surgeon general position in the Army, Navy or Air Force in over 236 years, I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t important that I was the first, but it was very important to ensure that I was not the last.
I found that what the United States does has an international impact. I had more fathers come up to me and say they were excited to see a female in this position because it gave their daughter hope, and it gave them a view that anything is possible. I even had leaders from other countries reach out to me. It made other countries take notice and think, “Why aren’t we developing our females to be competitive for the highest positions?”
There were women all over the world watching and thinking, “Is this something that will be a career path that maybe I could follow?” So I embraced mentoring. I embraced that it was not about me, it was about the position and the long heritage of the position that I was representing the U.S. Army and the U.S. military health system, and that I needed to do that to the best of my ability to ensure that we had the right skillsets to be able to support those who put their lives on the line for our country.
Listen to Patty describe the reactions she received from around the world when she assumed the role of Army Surgeon General
As a mentor, what advice would you give to young females?
To embrace all of their roles. No one comes in and is just a nurse, just a doctor, just a soldier, just an officer—they are all of those. There are wives, there are sons, there are daughters. All of those roles make up the one individual, and you can’t separate them. You are never on or off duty. Espouse your values in all that you do, both personally and professionally.
Most importantly, enjoy the journey. Life takes you on a path that you can’t imagine. People will see potential in you that you don’t see yourself. You need to allow yourself to be pushed out of your comfort zone to grow.
9/11 is an important day in history, and for our country. You were working at the Pentagon when the plane struck. Would you like to share your experience?
On the morning of 9/11, I took the Metro to work and I was reading the book, God Is My CEO. It was a beautiful September day. At the office, I remember I was about to take a legal document down the hallway. I stepped out of the doorway and I had this strong feeling—don’t go down that direction, turn the other direction—so I did. I stepped across the hallway to where two of my colleagues were watching something on TV. I said, “What are you watching?” They said the twin towers had been attacked in New York.
The calmest feeing came over me and I said, “There is going to be a series of attacks across the United States, and we’re going to be next.” I turned back to my office and as soon as I stepped in, the building shook. I was on the side of the impact, about 150 yards away. I thought, well this is it, we just got attacked.
As everyone was filing to get out of the building, I turned to my colleague and said, “Listen, I don’t want anyone to question where I am. I’m going to go to the impact site.” So I went the opposite direction. When I got to the impact site, there was this gaping hole in the Pentagon, with plane debris all over. There was one individual outside, a master sergeant. He had just left the building and watched the plane enter. The two of us started the first triage site in that area, helping people evacuate out of the building.
There was a young sergeant who was home on leave. For some reason, he had his medical bag home with him. When he woke up and saw the fireball, he took his aid bag and ran two miles to the site. Because of his heroic actions, we had medical supplies and were able to save several lives. Another general came up to me when I was treating patients and said, “What do you need?” I didn’t even look at his rank, I said, “I need your belt because I need to use it as a tourniquet.” He gave me his belt and went back into the building to help other people. We were able to have several patients airlifted out before we were grounded again.
It was a day that made me realize the true statement behind the United States of America. That regardless of your politics, your gender, your religion, your educational background, that we become united in one purpose. There are people who responded and did heroic actions, whose stories will never be told. They’ve kept them quietly to themselves, but they have changed lives and saved people. I lost two of my officemates. My desk was right across from theirs. Sergeant Major Lacey Ivory and Major Ron Milam.
My background is trauma and ER and I’ve always realized that every day is a gift and you need to cherish it. I never leave without saying, “I love you” to my family, and I never go to bed without saying, “I love you.”
Listen to Patty talk about other life altering trauma experiences from her nursing career.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see in Military Health today?
Military Health is a reflection of our nation, because we recruit from our population. Even though only one percent of our population serves, everything within our nation’s healthcare system has ties to our military health system.
We have a disease model of care for our health system, and we need to have a system for health. We shouldn’t be asking, “When is a disease going to occur?” We should be asking, “If a disease occurs?” We need to leverage technology in a way that allows us to accelerate a movement from healthcare to health, and allows us to keep our military service members and their families as healthy as possible—physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and financially—so that the last 10 years of their life are the most productive years of their life.
What do agencies need to do differently to overcome these challenges?
They have to have a mindset to look and say, how do we revolutionize healthcare the same way the banking industry changed; that retail changed? How do we use that expertise and apply that to healthcare? How do we say there should be streams of data that are configured in a way that will inform our patients so that they improve their own health literacy and change their behavior?
How do we change the mindset and the financial system within our nation and our military that rewards healthy behaviors in a way that improves one’s overall physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health so that we bend the cost of healthcare and improve health outcomes, and the military can improve health readiness and the cost of health readiness?
How do you see the role of digital affecting Military Health?
Digital is a capability that affects everything we just talked about. It’s the ability to move military medicine into the new norm and decrease unwarranted variance, to be able to facilitate driving a change in behavior and how care is delivered through the different capabilities that digital provides. It helps to change a mindset that then can change a behavior.
Which digital innovations are you most excited about?
We’re working with the intelligent patient platform, we’re working on a different readiness model using digital, and we’re looking at exploring areas of nutrition and health. When you look at telehealth and virtual waiting rooms, virtual scheduling, the ability to leverage healthcare through technology that can expand reach to areas that are remote or underserved, the possibilities are unlimited.
Who are your personal heroes and what influence have they had on you?
My mom and my grandfather. My grandfather came over from Italy and had an elementary grade school education. He worked in the coalmines and worked his way out to own a bar and then apartment buildings. He always valued an education. He would tell all of the grandchildren, it’s the one thing that no one can take away from you.
My mom got married at 17 and my dad had just come back from World War II, he also fought in Korea and Vietnam. She had dropped out of high school and got married and raised a family. But when I was in junior high, she went back and got her GED. It showed me the importance of education and lifelong learning. Both my grandfather and my mom were the influences of why I went into nursing. My grandfather saw nursing as a profession that allowed you to contribute and give back to others.
As we celebrated Veterans Day this year what did you reflect on?
Veterans Day is a day where we need to reflect on all of the sacrifices that are made. You can’t look at the flag without recognizing the generations that have made sacrifices for that flag to be flying, and for us to be a democracy that allows us to enjoy all of the freedoms that we do.
I would ask people on Veterans Day, and not just that single day, but every day, to appreciate what this nation represents and to appreciate those who are willing to don the cloth of our nation, and the parents who allow their children to join each of the services. When you see a service member or veteran, take the opportunity to thank them. There is tremendous healing that occurs when someone comes up and says, “Thank you for your service.”
I’ve seen this with my father who fought World War II, Korea and Vietnam, who wears his hat with the three combat infantry badges on it. He’s in a wheelchair and he has Parkinson’s Disease.
Whenever he’s out and someone comes up to him and says, “Thank you for your service.” he sits up a little bit taller in his wheelchair, and there is just a sense of pride. As you go forward, I’d ask that you recognize our female veterans and our male veterans. Because it’s very difficult to identify who has served and who has not, I worry with our female veterans that there will be moments when people fail or miss the opportunity to say, “Thank you for your service.”
Patty has traveled all over the world in her military career including China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and across the United States. Hear Patty describe in her own words the sacrifices and heroic actions of service members that she has personally witnessed and the impact they’ve made on her.
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