Graduating military doctors take oaths, earn promotions

CUSOM Class of 2024 Military Promotion Ceremony Campbell University Spring Commencement

U.S. military doctors serve to care for the greatest Americans. 

Treating service members and keeping them healthy. So they can complete the overall mission. Preserving peace, securing our nation, responding in times of crisis and, if necessary, fighting and decisively winning battles, conflicts and wars.

U.S. Navy Reserve Capt. Jason D. Higginson offered that message to Campbell University military student doctors during the Class of 2024 Military Commissioning Ceremony in Hobson Auditorium. They will graduate with their classmates in a ceremony at 10 a.m. May 9 in Gore Arena, John W. Pope Convocation Center.

“We … cannot fight wars if we’re not healthy,” said Higginson, Medical Corps commander of Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command in Bethesda, Maryland. Higginson is also the executive dean and a professor of Pediatrics, Bioethics and Interdisciplinary Studies at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

“We cannot fight the wars if the force cannot stay on the battlefield. This is where medicine engages in the military fight.” 

Fifteen members of the Campbell University Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine 2024 graduating class took their military oaths as part of the ceremony May 8. Eight Army members and one Air Force member were promoted to captain. Six members of the Navy were promoted to lieutenant. Family members, including current service members and veterans, pinned the shiny, twin silver bars on the shoulders of each new military doctor.

Dr. Brian Kessler, dean and chief academic officer for the medical school, presented each service member with a coin representing Campbell’s med school.

“Today we celebrate the remarkable individuals who have chosen to embark on a journey of service to our nation,” Kessler said. “Your decision to embrace the call of duty reflects a profound commitment to the well-being of others. 

“For that, you deserve our utmost respect and admiration. In a world of uncertainty and complexity, your dedication to service serves as a beacon of hope and stability. Your willingness to place the needs of others above your own epitomizes the noblest ideals of the military profession.”

The inspirational ceremony also featured remarks by Campbell University President Dr. Bradley Creed and a rousing rendition of the Armed Forces Medley.

“We’re very proud of you,” Creed told the officers. “We admire you today. We stand somewhat in awe of you, but we’re very grateful for your service and what you will do for us.”

Higginson, a 24-year veteran, talked about his journey in the Navy, about the challenges of military training, global threats and the privilege of serving his country. About medical breakthroughs, such as tourniquets, on and around the battlefield.

During the Civil War, Higginson said, 2 million people served, and some 500,000 were taken from the battlefield, never to return. About 138,000 were wounded in battle, but some 220,000 were stricken by disease and other injuries.

Fast forward to today, he said.

During Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, of about 1.9 million troops on the battlefield some 41,000 sustained combat-related injuries; some 123,000 could not fight because of disease and other non-battle-related injuries. 

“The difference between now and the Civil War was that we returned soldiers and sailors and airmen to the battlefield at much higher rates than we ever had,” Higginson said. 

Wounded service members have a 98 percent chance of surviving injuries if treated within five minutes, he said.

“That’s military medicine,” he said. “That preserves the strength of the nation. That is what you are charged to do.”

Higginson talked about his father-in-law, an Army veteran critically wounded in 1970, when he was shot in the neck after exiting a helicopter. He was instantly paralyzed, but an Army medic, trained by an Army physician, was the first to administer care. Three times he received last rites, yet he survived to raise children, including Higginson’s wife, also a military doctor.

That story is a big reason Higginson made a career in the military.

“Not only do we change the fight, we also change society for the better. Most importantly, you will be taking care of some of the greatest Americans that exist.

“That is what you guys are doing. You’re taking care of those great Americans.

As you take your oath today, remember that the oath and your commission bind you and your fellow service members to a commitment to the Constitution, and to service to this great nation.”

Think about the lineage of 247 years of commissioned, uniformed service, Higginson said. About the officers who came before and swore that same oath. What it meant to them and what they did for this nation.

Higginson talked about the world today, what war planners, he said, are calling the “decisive decade.” About an ever-unpredictable and increasingly belligerent Russia. The continuing instability in the Middle East. About China, which will continue to challenge the way of life enjoyed by many nations, including America.

 “Know that the fight that is coming is something that we are prepared to win, and it will preserve the just peace that we enjoy now, and the just future for all the world.

“It is a pleasure to call you sisters and brothers in arms.”