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Dr. Nathan - a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy -decided
on a career as a physician because of a personal experience.
"My desire in becoming a physician was cemented when I watched
my mother battle a terminal illness. I was in college at the time,
and I carefully watched all the physicians who participated in her
care. I saw how they artfully weaved together science and
compassion to provide my mother with the care she needed. After
this experience, I knew that I wanted to become a physician."
Drawn to internal medicine during rotations, Dr. Nathan was
inspired by the unique teaching style of the attending staff, many
of whom took a tremendous interest in teaching medical students
while at a patient's bedside. They impressed upon Dr. Nathan the
importance of viewing the whole patient - not just the disease
affecting the patient. These experiences solidified his choice to
pursue a career in internal medicine. "What I enjoy about internal
medicine is that it puts so much emphasis on prevention, as well as
the science of treating complicated diseases. I love the importance
in keeping patients healthy, but also the ability to really make a
difference in someone's life."
Dr. Nathan attended medical school at The Medical College of
Georgia through the Health Professions Scholarship Program, which
provided tuition assistance in exchange for active duty service.
After completing his residency at the University of South Florida
and requisite military duty, Dr. Nathan continued to serve actively
in the United States Navy, building an impressive career in naval
Leading Through Change
As the commander of the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) in
Bethesda, Maryland, Dr. Nathan played a lead role in merging it
with the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The merger has formed the
largest medical center in military history - the Walter Reed
National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) - and Dr. Nathan was
appointed as its first commander, a position he compares to being
CEO of a major medical center. Managing the integration of these
two iconic medical centers into one, and leading that combined
organization through both cultural and physical change, has not
been without challenges. Creating the new WRNMMC has required a
significant amount of construction, and during these renovations,
the facility had to function at full capacity as it is responsible
for treating the majority of wounded soldiers that return from war
, the nation's leaders and other patients who seek care in the
broad range of medical specialties.
Throughout it all, Dr. Nathan tried to capitalize on each
center's previous traditions and best practices as they melded into
one unified facility. "There has been a great spirit of cooperation
here and learning from each other has created great synergy on
campus," said Dr. Nathan. Always moving forward, Dr. Nathan is now
looking for collaborations and partnerships with other medical
organizations, such as those at the National Institutes of Health
in Bethesda, in hopes of creating a federal medical "mecca."
Dr. Nathan has a history of leadership. On his first command
tour, Dr. Nathan led Naval Hospital Pensacola in Florida, in
addition to 12 other clinics in four states, all of which were hit
by hurricanes during his tenure. Although these experiences were
daunting, that tour was defining for Dr. Nathan's career. "What I
was most inspired by was the resiliency of the people that I worked
for and with. Although many had lost their homes, and the
hurricanes had wreaked havoc on their own personal lives, they had
an incredible ability to come together. They put others before self
and made sure that care was still given to those who needed
Dr. Nathan continues to be inspired by the people that he
encounters in his current role. "Some of the men and women that we
treat at WRNMMC have gone through devastating injuries and
challenges," said Dr. Nathan. "I have watched their resiliencies
and their undoubting spirits in the face of incredible odds. I have
been particularly impressed by young people who have had their
lives seriously altered but refuse to give up; instead they come
back into mainstream society and still continue to make a
A Global Perspective
Dr. Nathan recognizes his dual role of providing support for our
fighting forces and that of deploying care throughout the world in
aid of people and counties hit by natural or man-made catastrophes.
Navy Medicine may be a worldwide health care network for U.S.
forces, but, according to Dr. Nathan, it is also a key component of
global public health. Naval medical personnel collaborate with
partners from around the world to develop and provide cures for
some of our most devastating diseases, including malaria and
"Our humanitarian assistance missions build trust and
cooperation with partner nations, provide medical care to
populations in need, and sow the seeds for long-term stability and
security in many places around the world," said Dr. Nathan. "The
hard work of our men and women in uniform throughout the world to
improve public health and improve the lives of many in need
demonstrate every day that the Navy is truly a global force for
good." Dr. Nathan's global perspective has been shaped by a career
that has provided him with unique opportunities to travel and to
see different health care systems. He said that his visits to
Japan, the United Kingdom, and the Caribbean have given him a
better appreciation of the task of treating a world health
"Throughout my travels to the far reaches of the planet, I have
had the chance to see illnesses that aren't typically encountered
in American medicine," said Dr. Nathan. "For an internist, it's an
opportunity to see some of the diseases of third world countries
that we only read about in American medical textbooks."
As his medical career continues, new opportunities await Dr.
Nathan. The United States Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, has
nominated Dr. Nathan for Surgeon General of the United States Navy.
Dr. Nathan stated that he was honored to be nominated for the
position, which is subject to confirmation by the Senate, and looks
forward to continuing his career with the Navy. In addition to his
large set of professional responsibilities, Dr. Nathan enjoys
restoring British sports cars and traveling with his family. He and
his daughter share a mutual love of playing the guitar.
October 2011 Issue of IMpact
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