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    A Changing of Caring Hands at NHCOH/NMRTC Oak Harbor

    A Changing of Caring Hands at NHCOH/NMRTC Oak Harbor

    Photo By Douglas Stutz | Signifying more than just a thumbs-up...Capt. Steven Kewish gives thanks to the...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    Naval Hospital Bremerton/Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Bremerton

    Capt. Juliann Althoff relieved Capt. Steven Kewish as commanding officer of Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Oak Harbor (NMRTCOH) and director, Naval Health Clinic Oak Harbor (NHCOH) during a change of command ceremony on Ault Field, September 9, 2022.

    Kewish served as the NHCOH director and NMRTC OH commanding officer since Aug 2019, providing exemplary leadership and guiding the command through a demanding period of transformational change brought about by the COVID-19 epidemic. Kewish steered the delivery of high-quality patient care to those onboard Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, providing surgical, medical, mental health, dental, and public health support to the more than 50 tenant commands, 22 deploying squadrons, and 28,000 beneficiaries.

    Reflecting on his tour on Whidbey Island, Capt. Kewish said "The secret to NHCOH's success is our fantastic team of active duty, civilian and contract staff, who are privileged by the opportunity to participate in the lives of our patients. They are committed to ensuring NHCOH is the best place to receive and give care. Capt. Althoff inherits a great team of professionals, and I know she'll be as honored and blessed as I've been.”

    Rear Adm. Guido Valdes, commander of Navy Medical Forces Pacific (NMFP), presented Kewish with the Legion of Merit award for his outstanding service citing specific accomplishments such as guiding staff in the completion of a multi-year transformational change of organizational and system requirements, integrating Defense Health Agency and Bureau of Medicine and Surgery missions, and contributing to the successful standup of the Defense Health Agency, Puget Sound Market.

    Additionally, the citation noted that at the outset of Coronavirus Disease 2019, Kewish promptly implemented mitigations to maximize patient and staff safety and maintain ongoing medical services, which increased the command's mission capability and minimized disease transmission rates. He partnered with installation, wing, and unit commands to enable safe and efficient delivery of 18,000 vaccinations during 130 mass vaccination events.

    “I’m honored to be here to share the stage with Capt. Kewish and Capt. Althoff, and gather with all of you to mark the transfer of authority, responsibility and accountability of NMRTC Oak Harbor in this change of command,” stated Valdes, the presiding officer of the ceremony. “I want to recognize who is important to the very success of this two leaders; their families. We all know how precious our families are in these very demanding professions. Families are the backbone of our military. They inspired us and keep us motivated during challenging times.”

    The ceremony advanced to the reading of orders for Althoff, incoming commanding officer of NMRTC OH and Director, NHCOH as she officially relieved Kewish. Althoff then approached the podium and spoke as the new NMRTC OH commanding officer and Director, NHCOH.

    “Capt. Kewish, thank you for leaving me such a fantastic command,” said Althoff. "I want to build on the innovation and the many great successes shaped during your tenure. I am truly honored to be here and am committed not only to this amazing Naval Health Clinic Oak Harbor staff, but the critical mission this command is entrusted with; namely readiness and the provision of safe, high quality healthcare to our active duty and retired beneficiaries and their families that we are privileged to serve.”

    Althoff added, “We can only accomplish this mission with the dedicated support of our civilian partners at Island Hospital and WhidbeyHealth, who help ensure access to services not available at our facility. With this shared commitment to health and quality, our warfighters past and present, and their families, are able to meet mission and enjoy life to the fullest extent possible. I look forward to meeting each and every one of you in the upcoming weeks as we work together as a team in support of our ‘one clinic - one mission’ philosophy.”

    Capt. Althoff is a graduate of the Boonshoft School of Medicine. Her most recent tour was as Executive Officer for Naval Medical Research Unit – Dayton. Althoff’s career spans 13 duty stations, six years overseas, a six month deployment on USS Nimitz (CVN 68) as a flight surgeon and primary care provider and as one of the first women assigned to a deployed Naval Air Wing. She was a flight surgeon for HMX-1, the Presidential Helicopter Squadron, supporting numerous state-side and overseas presidential missions.

    Board certified in Public Health and Preventive Medicine, she stood up a new Preventive Medicine/Public Health unit in Rota, Spain in 2013, where her team deployed to countries throughout Africa and Europe on a daily basis in support of the fleet and joint operations.

    Additionally, she was part of several impactful humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, and helped coordinate the U.S. response to the 2011 Great Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency, to help ensure the health and safety of nearly 70,000 DoD beneficiaries that lived within 100 miles of the Fukoshima reactor.

    Althoff also served in numerous staff positions working on high level medical policy. As director of a Federal Advisory Committee, the Defense Health Board, she worked with a group of civilian experts, including former presidents of the American Medical Association, directors of healthcare systems, and esteemed specialists in advising the DoD in policy impact areas.

    Once the Change of Command was complete, focus shifted to Capt Kewish’s retirement after 36 years of honorable service. As the retiring officer, Mr. Mark Boman, NMFP Chief of Staff and Director, Civilian Corps, initially focused his remarks on Kewish’s staff members.

    “You have gone through a lot these last few years. [Initial Navy command to deploy the new DoD electronic health record] MHS GENESIS. Staffing issues. The list goes on and on. In spite of all that, the accomplishments that were read in the citation for Kewish were really about you. Thank you,” said Boman, also echoing how crucial it is to have continual familial backing when serving in the military.

    “A successful career is in large measure due to the support of family. On behalf of Steve and a grateful Navy, thank you,” addressed Boman to the Kewish family present at the ceremony.

    Kewish shared what a pleasure, honor and privilege it was to have served as the Commanding Officer of NHCOH. “I can honestly say that I have learned, and become a better physician, leader and person from this experience and from the interaction I’ve had with everyone here at the clinic and aboard NASWI. You inspire me.”

    He added that “serving as Commanding Officer is the stuff of dreams and it has been an incredibly rewarding journey and all that I could ever ask for. This tour is what I’ll remember, this tour has been the very best of what service in the Navy is all about – the people, the mission, and the inspiration.”


    Date Taken: 09.09.2022
    Date Posted: 09.11.2022 11:37
    Story ID: 429009

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