NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (NNS) -- Cmdr. Tim Whiting, public health nurse and global health engagement manager at Navy Medicine West (NMW), was recognized for his nursing leadership excellence at the 2019 Association of Military Surgeons of the Unites States (AMSUS) meeting, Dec. 5.
Whiting, a native of Luzerne, Michigan, who was recently promoted to the rank of Navy commander, received the 2019 Military Health System (MHS) Military Nursing Leadership Excellence Award in the Navy’s junior leadership category from Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Mr. Thomas McCaffery during an awards banquet.
“It means a lot to be recognized for the body of work that shapes up over your career,” said Whiting about being selected for the award. “I was a bit shocked because there are so many high performing officers doing amazing things in the Navy and you just never think that what you are doing is up there with the cool things your peers are doing.”
The award recognizes Whiting’s achievements in clinical and operational nursing leadership that have advanced the profession of nursing while displaying compassion and commitment to patients and colleagues alike.
“Cmdr. Whiting is truly an exceptional nurse and naval officer whose expertise and leadership have led to tangible improvements in the health and readiness of our patients within the military health system,” said Rear Adm. Tim Weber, NMW commander and director of the Navy’s Medical Service Corps. “His work across numerous global health engagements has not only strengthened relationships with partner nations it has also enhanced the operational readiness of our medical forces by supporting opportunities to train and work in environments where they may one day provide care to our warfighters.”
Whiting has been in the Navy for 17 years—his first three were spent as a hospital corpsman and, after finishing college, he’s spent the last 14 as a Navy nurse corps officer.
“I wanted to get a degree in athletic training in college but that would have made me a line officer,” Whiting said. Choosing to stay in Navy Medicine, he instead opted for a nursing degree, thinking he could go on to be a nurse practitioner and focus on sports medicine.
“I learned pretty early that sports medicine nurse practitioners aren’t really a thing,” he added.
Instead, early in his nursing career, Whiting worked as an emergency room nurse but found he didn’t truly enjoy it, thinking there was a better way to care for patients instead of treating them after they became seriously sick or injured.
“I always felt there was a better way,” said Whiting. “For as long as I can remember, I have always looked at processes that make up systems and in medicine that translates to public health.”
Public health is a field of medicine that promotes and protects the health of people and communities to prevent illness and injury. Practitioners encourage healthy behaviors with science-backed strategies, examine the causes of poor health in order to prevent or reduce them, and educate populations on how to achieve better health and well-being.
After turning his focus to public health, Whiting hasn’t looked back. Having found his passion in medicine, he has led several initiatives to improve health for all patients in the military health system and beyond. A few of Whiting’s major achievements, which led to his nomination and selection for the MHS Nursing Leadership Excellence Award, include:
Developing a weight management program that is the only diabetes prevention program in the DoD recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Planning and facilitating more than 400 joint, multinational medical and nursing engagements for three different global health missions across eight nations
Formalizing a career development board at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa
Helping develop the NMW competency manual for training personnel in administering immunizations to reduce errors and improve proficiency
Selection as the Navy nurse corps specialty leader for public health nursing
The diabetes prevention program Whiting developed in 2018 while assigned to U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, was a three-pronged approach to weight management, which is key to managing the disease because being overweight can interfere with the body’s ability to use insulin, a hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in the bloodstream.
“I am pretty passionate about the diabetes prevention program,” Whiting said. “The cornerstone of the program is having an approach that includes nutrition, physical activity, and behavioral health.”
According to Whiting, most programs focus primarily on activity and nutrition without placing much emphasis on the role behavior plays in weight management. He and his team focused on enabling individuals to change their behavior towards activity and nutrition, encouraging a positive attitude towards exercise and healthy eating habits.
“Health and wellness is a three legged stool,” explained Whiting. “All three components—nutrition, physical activity, and behavior—must be in sync. If one leg breaks down, the whole stool falls over.”
The theme of public health and working to prevent illness and injury rather than simply treating them has been evident throughout Whiting’s career, including his work in global health engagement.
In 2018 and 2019, while serving as the nursing and medical planner for Pacific Partnership, a joint service, multinational humanitarian and disaster relief preparedness mission that is conducted in the Indo-Pacific region, Whiting helped a hospital in Honduras revamp their emergency department triage system, conducted a two-day emergency and disaster nursing symposium at the College of the Marshall Islands and helped them expand their nursing curriculum, and helped build occupational and physical therapy capabilities and capacities at a medical facility in the Federated States of Micronesia.
“Everything comes back to public health,” Whiting said of his career. “In the U.S., we have a very advanced public health system, which makes it challenging to make impactful, tangible improvements but we can nurture existing systems in new ways to keep them optimal as the health care landscape changes.”
On the global level, adds Whiting, many nations are years—sometimes decades—behind Western nations when it comes to public health.
“There’s tremendous gratification in helping the countries where we execute global health engagements to develop workable systems in their resource constrained environments.”
In his role as the global health engagement manager at NMW, a new position, Whiting will have the opportunity to use all of his experiences to strengthen strategic partnership and alliances across the region while also enhancing the operational readiness of Navy Medicine personnel as they develop and sustain medical and non-medical skills in overseas, unfamiliar environments.
AMSUS is an educational and professional association of federal health care professionals who support the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, among others.
Navy Medicine West (NMW) leads Navy Medicine’s Western Pacific health care system and global research and development enterprise. Throughout the region, NMW provides medical care to nearly 700,000 beneficiaries across 10 naval hospitals, two dental battalions, and 51 branch clinics located throughout the West Coast of the U.S., Asia, and the Pacific Rim. Globally, NMW oversees eight research laboratories that deliver research expertise in support of warfighter health and readiness.
For more news from Navy Medicine West, visit www.navy.mil/local/nmw/.