First Black Female Lieutenant General Retires As Head Of Army Medical Command | Texas Public Radio

First Black Female Lieutenant General Retires As Head Of Army Medical Command

Aug 16, 2019

Lt. Gen. Nadja West, head of Army Medical Command, relinquished her command Friday at a ceremony at Fort Sam Houston. West became the 44th Army Surgeon General in December 2015. She's the first black female lieutenant general in the Army and the highest-ranking woman to graduate from West Point. 

West is a career family medicine doctor and dermatologist who also has airborne and air assault qualifications. The 58-year-old is the youngest of 12 adopted children, and was raised by an Army logistics officer and his wife, a journalist and activist.

During her time as MEDCOM commander, West developed training programs to help combat medics maintain their skills between missions. She also oversaw programs that focused on the readiness and well-being of soldiers and their families.

Gen. Joseph Martin, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, praised West for her contributions.

"She is a decisive leader who proved her merit over a career of action and results,” he said. “She was a field surgeon in Desert Storm. Commander of Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Served as the Joint Staff surgeon, where she crafted the DOD response to the Ebola crisis back then. Without a doubt, under Nadja's command, MEDCOM has made tremendous strides over the past three plus years.”

Moving to the podium, West thanked her colleagues, and said she was grateful to have been part of the Army's centuries-long tradition of medical excellence.

"We're part of a family business whose longevity isn't measured in decades, but in centuries. We're part of a noble tradition that has been caring for wounded, relieving suffering, healing ailments, protecting health, developing new cures and preventing disease,” she said. “It is really mind-boggling to me that I had the opportunity to be a leader of it for just a small sliver of our timeline.”

West added that faith in Army medicine matters.

“MEDCOM, as a supporting command, does not win wars. I understand this,” she said. “We have, however, remained a critical enabler to ensure our Army achieves this end. Our nation's mothers and fathers know that when their sons or daughters become ill or injured, we are there. We are ready. This gives them confidence to send them into harm's way to win our nation's wars if called to."

Army Medical Command is made up of about 130,000 military and civilian professionals. They support operations at medical centers, clinics, and labs around the U.S. and world.

It's unclear who will assume leadership of MEDCOM in West's stead.

Carson Frame can be reached at and on Twitter at @carson_frame.