Navy leader says diversity is important

Vice Admiral Matthew L. Nathan, the surgeon general of the Navy, delivered the keynote address during the hooding ceremony for the Medical College of Georgia on Thursday.

Kelsey White is just in her second year at Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University but she already knows what her future holds. The dazzling white Navy uniform she wore Thursday morning was a big clue.


“I think I was drawn to the lifestyle,” she said. “I appreciate the integrity that the Navy stands for, and I really love our history. I like the sense of tradition that we have.”

It also means constantly changing and adapting to the widest range of clinical settings the military has to offer and a diverse set of missions from combat support to humanitarian, said Vice Admiral Matthew L. Nathan, the Navy surgeon general. A 1981 graduate of MCG, he met with more than a dozen military-affiliated students, residents and faculty members before serving as the speaker for the hooding ceremony that precedes graduation today.

He acknowledged that he does not have enough women among his ranks.

“I am aggressively pursuing that,” he assured the group. Part of the problem is a lack of women among top officials, which might discourage women from pursuing leadership roles, Nathan said. People don’t want to stay in an organization where they “don’t feel you have a fighting chance to get to the top of that organization,” he said. “That’s going to change under my watch,” he added.

Greater diversity overall in the Navy, as with many top corporations, is also a goal.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” he said. “Second, it’s just good business.”

Companies such as IBM spend $20 million a year on diversity initiatives because they know that, Nathan said.

“I’m in a race with IBM and other Fortune 500 companies, with the Mayo Clinic, for talent that is out there,” he said.

One advantage the Navy has is the ability to offer a wide range of experiences, from forward combat medicine serving alongside Marine Corps combat units to undersea medicine on submarines to humanitarian missions aboard the hospital ship Mercy, which just set off on a mission to Asia.

“I’d like to think the Navy has the most diverse spectrum of options available for young people in medicine today,” he said. “I think we have a pretty good smorgasbord of opportunities for everybody.”

A career that has taken him around the world began in Augusta, where, Nathan said, “the training I received here made me as well if not better prepared than most for taking care of patients.”

“I think this school should pride itself on that,” he said.