A nurse who treated victims of one of the Army’s worst air disasters and at the Pentagon on Sept. 11 took command Thursday at Madigan Army Medical Center.
Maj. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho comes to Madigan after 15 months as commander of the Walter Reed Health Care System. She was also promoted earlier this month to command the Army Nurse Corps, a job she’ll keep in her new post at Fort Lewis.
Horoho succeeds Brig. Gen. Sheila Baxter, who led Madigan the past three years. The past year she oversaw sweeping changes aimed at improving care for wounded and injured soldiers and their families.
Baxter is retiring and plans to pursue a master’s degree in divinity studies at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.
Madigan received numerous awards during her tenure for its educational and research programs, and its medical simulation training center won recognition as one of the most advanced in the country.
The hospital also developed a screening and health assessment program for soldiers returning from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan that became a model for the rest of the Army, officials said.
But Madigan also felt the effects of the scandalous conditions reported in February 2007 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which launched an Army-wide reform of health care for the wounded.
At Fort Lewis, many soldiers complained of insensitive treatment in the medical holding companies and bewildering red-tape in the Army’s medical bureaucracy.
Lt. Gen. Jim Dubik, who worked with Baxter for two years as Fort Lewis commanding general, credited her with a style that endeared her to patients and staff.
"She focused on the right values," Dubik said Thursday, "and it’s the values that get you through the hard times, that keep you from running from one thing to the next with each new problem. Her values got us through the hard times."
Baxter on Thursday received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Army’s highest award for service not involving combat valor.
She told her successor she’s "inheriting a fantastic team and they will inspire you every day."
Horoho began her Army career as a trauma nurse after graduating from the University of North Carolina in 1982. She and her husband Ray have two sons, 21 and 15, and a daughter, 14.
Horoho was head nurse in the emergency room at Fort Bragg, N.C., during the Green Ramp disaster in 1994, when 24 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division were killed and dozens more injured in an aircraft crash and fire at Pope Air Force Base.
The hospital won a superior unit citation for its response.
She was working in an administrative assignment at the Pentagon when hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the building on Sept. 11.
Horoho is credited with rushing to the scene and quickly setting up first-aid care and triage for the wounded, work that later won her recognition as a "nurse hero" by the American Red Cross.
"Patty always seems to be where the action is," said Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.
She was placed in command of day-to-day operations at Walter Reed in May 2007 in the personnel moves that followed disclosure of the conditions for some soldiers there.
On Thursday, she said the past year has been "a time like no other in Army medicine."
"It’s been a year of tremendous inward looking at where we can make improvements across every aspect of health care in support of our warriors," she said.
The Madigan job includes the Western Regional Medical Command, with responsibility for Army medical facilities and care across six western states.
And in Horoho’s case, she’ll also be in charge of the service’s nurse corps.
She said the multiple duties will not take away from her ability to ensure quality care at Madigan.
"Absolutely not. Absolutely not," she said. "Part of my responsibilities will be a regional responsibility, looking at the overall good of everybody who is entrusted to our care.
"But at the same time, I can be looking at Army Nurse Corps issues because at all of our facilities we have Army nurses."