Army, Navy cultures clash as hospitals merge in Bethesda


Rear Adm. Matthew Nathan (left), commander of the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., accepts Maj. Walter Reed's ceremonial sword from Maj. Gen. Carla Hawley-Bowland, commanding general of the Northern Regional Medical Command and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, during a color casing ceremony for WRAMC. (Photo: Sharon Renee Taylor via

NPR highlights the friction between the Army and Navy as Walter Reed Army Medical Center gets folded into National Naval Medical Center to become the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

From making an appointment to see a doctor to the kind of therapy a soldier or Marine with traumatic brain injury receives, the services handle different problems in different ways.

Dr. Dennis O’Leary, a member of the the military’s own Defense Health Board, told NPR that Army and Navy officials couldn’t agree on even basic details.

“They have their own leadership and their own cultures,” he said. “And so right off the top we’re talking about merging leadership, resources and cultures, and that is a daunting challenge, and no one should believe that it is anything less than that.”

Vice Adm. John Mateczun, who is in charge of the hospital merger, had an optimistic take. No surprise there.

“The fact is that everybody comes out of a medical background,” he told NPR, “and that the training for doctors and nurses and technicians in America is very much the same. And that is probably more a part of what we are than anything else.”


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