First female surgeon general speaks to Augusta women

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As a woman in the Army at Fort Gordon, Capt. Kimberly Smith knows what it is like work in a male-dominated profession. As a nurse, she knows what it’s like to be in a field dominated by doctors.

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Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho (left) laughs as she stands with Command Sgt. Maj. Donna Brock (right) as they meet guests at the VIP reception before the Women in Business dinner at the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho (left) laughs as she stands with Command Sgt. Maj. Donna Brock (right) as they meet guests at the VIP reception before the Women in Business dinner at the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center.

That was part of the reason she was so excited to hear Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the first nurse and first woman appointed as surgeon general and commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command, as the speaker at Tuesday evening’s annual Signature Event of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business.

“I am very inspired by her,” Smith said. “She is very confident and innovative. She is a dynamic woman.”

The event, held at the Augusta Marriott’s Convention Center, was meant to do just that, inspire women, said Amy Winn, the chairwoman of the chamber’s board. Each year, the Women in Business group chooses a well-known female figure with the hope that she will light a fire in the women filling most of the 400 chairs around the room.

“She really reinforces there aren’t the same boundaries on us as in the past,” Winn said.

Winn said Horoho’s background also shows that nurses have the ability to move to upper management. She said she thought it was nice to see the “backbone” of the hospitals being recognized.

Helen Caldwell, the chairwoman of Woman in Business, said Horoho was an ideal representative of two of Augusta’s most prominent industries, military and health care.

“She is the perfect fit to draw a crowd that encompasses most of Augusta’s demographics,” she said.

During her speech, Horoho said she has been successful in her career because of the people who have inspired her along the way. She said a woman made time to teach her when she was younger, and so she makes sure to pass on her own wisdom.

“When I actively mentor, I feel I reconnect with the world,” she said.

As a trauma nurse, Horoho was involved in many high-pressure, intense situations, she said. Those experiences were not for her to hold on to but to share with others, she said.

Horoho directs the third-largest health care system in the U.S., behind the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Hospital Corp. of America. With an annual budget of $13.5 billion, she manages more than 480 facilities and 29 executive agencies. She also oversees 140,000 military and civilian employees and more than 3.5 million beneficiaries globally, according to the Army’s Web site.

Horoho said she knew she was asked to speak at the event because of her career and maybe to share some secrets of success. In the end, however, she said there is no illusive secret. Success comes down to being passionate, willing to work hard and having a supportive team.

“If I do have secrets of success, they really are secret,” she said, “because I don’t know them.”


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