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Air Force Surgeon General’s annual workshop concludes, focuses on “refusing to lose”

  • Published
  • By Lindsay Mahon
  • Air Force Surgeon General Public Affairs
Part three of a three-part series covering the Air Force Surgeon General’s annual three-day Senior Leadership Workshop.

The Air Force Surgeon General’s annual Senior Leadership Workshop wrapped up on December 9 after three days of informative virtual sessions and speakers whose presentations brought into focus the theme of “Accelerate, Change or Lose.”

Day three focused on refusing to lose by recognizing challenges to resiliency, representation and relationships that if not remedied could be barriers to success.

The workshop started off with presentations on the importance of building a culture of diversity and inclusion to strengthen the Air Force Medical Service.

“Many studies continue to support the fact that decision-making in diverse teams continuously outperforms non-diverse teams,” said Dr. Tylon Crook, certified counselor and Associate Professor, Liberty University, whose presentation centered on implicit bias. “Although the military has historically led in the efforts towards equality, equity and justice, there are still disparities and there is still work to be done as minorities are still underrepresented in senior leadership [positions].”

In another session, Chisa Miller, a diversity expert at Chisa Miller Consulting, spoke about how inclusion in the workplace is important, but is not the only factor. She explained inclusion will not matter without belonging, which comes down to the culture.

“We learned there’s a lot more to diversity and inclusion than just hiring the right people. People want to come to work and feel like they are valued, they want to feel connected, they want to feel like they are part of the team,” said Miller.

Col. Felicia Burks, Chief, Diversity and Inclusion Division, Office of the Air Force Surgeon General, presented on the standup of the new division and how leadership intends to make diversity and inclusion a priority by changing the AFMS culture.

“As military members, it’s ingrained in us to refuse to lose,” said Burks. “But we know that there are certainly some things that we’d be better off leaving behind, like our biases."

Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, Air Force Surgeon General, agreed and said every Airman is responsible for this culture change.

“Changing the culture starts with me and you,” said Hogg. "To change the culture when we’re faced with things we know aren’t right, we have to step up and step in. We don’t turn our heads the other way and walk around it. We face it head on and address it. But we all have to cultivate this culture.”

While diversity and inclusion is one of the important challenges that the AFMS is facing head-on, so is the overall health and wellness of Airmen to help build a more resilient fighting force. In a panel on “building an immuno-resilient force,” speakers focused on the value of lifestyle and performance medicine, both on the current pandemic and long-term health outcomes.

"Lifestyle and performance medicine addresses the root causes of disease with evidence-based, highly effective modalities,” said Lt. Col. Bryant Webber, preventive medicine consultant, U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine.

“We are in the midst of not just one pandemic, but two: COVID-19 and the long-standing pandemic of chronic, degenerative disease,” said Maj. Regan Steigmann, Flight Surgeon, U.S. Air Force Academy. “By and large, most doctors and allied health care professionals are not trained on the in-depth nuance that nutrition has on disease. The concept of using food as a medicine has potential to significantly improve Americans’ and military members’ health.”

The final day also featured a virtual appearance from Gen. Charles Brown, Jr., Air Force Chief of Staff, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass who spoke about leadership and the challenges for the future.

"I suspect in the next four years we're probably going to see more meaningful changes than we will have seen in the almost 28 years of my career, and that's a good thing," said Bass. "When I talk to Airmen I remind them of why we must change. We are at a critical inflection point. And your leadership matters more now, than ever."

Brown praised medical professionals for leading from the front lines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When you think about what is happening with the pandemic and the effect on our communities, there are significant challenges for your career field,” said Brown. “You are doing exceptional things and I am really proud of you."

The end of Senior Leadership Workshop closed with Hogg highlighting several important leadership points from the entire workshop.

“If we don’t lead, accelerate and change, we will lose. We will lose our readiness if it’s not our priority. We will lose when we don’t share our lessons learned with one another. We will lose when we don’t transform to meet our future demands. If we don’t understand or know how the Air Force is moving forward we will become irrelevant,” said Hogg. “Losing is not an option for us.”

(Shireen Bedi contributed to this article)