October 7, 2021
Highlights: LTG Dingle
This interview with LTG Scott Dingle was conducted on September 22, 2021 by Gary Bisbee, Ph.D., MBA.
The full interview appears on The Gary Bisbee Show, and it can be viewed on YouTube or heard on your favorite podcast platform including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.
Can you share with us your two current commands?
First, I’m the Surgeon General for the United States Army. I have the “title 10 responsibility” of training, manning, equipping, leading, and sustaining Army medicine. My corps consists of medical corps, doctors, dentists, nurses, physician assistants, audiologists, enlisted medics, everything medical. The total army medicine force has about 121,000 plus soldiers and civilians. At the same time, I’m also the Commanding General for the United States Army Medical Command. That means the medical units in our hospitals, dental facilities, and veterinary clinics all fall under my command. So just over 59 hospitals, medical centers, and clinics around the world. When talking about brick-and-mortar locations, I have 26,000 in my East Coast hospital system. I have all of those 51,000 plus soldiers and civilians, consisting of both military and civilian medical professionals of all areas, underneath my command.
It seems like you’re working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, what’s your favorite part of the job?
A lot of people also ask me “what keeps you up at night.” I tell them: my iPhone. My iPhone is constantly going off and I have to respond to the Secretary, the Chief of Staff, the Department of Defense, or whoever is calling. So that keeps me up. My favorite part of the job though, in spite of the 1000s of people and the many missions, is making a difference in the lives of other people. Not just from the healthcare aspect and what the hospitals and the medical centers are doing, but also with the staff and taking care of the people. Helping them to achieve their professional goals, the leader development of the team, and then watching the entire team succeed. I love impacting the lives of other people, whether in the hospital or on the staff themselves.
What have you found most interesting about medical care over the course of your time?
Healthcare is about people. Those in the healthcare profession are passionate about taking care of people. I learned that when I was assigned to my first hospital. I got food poisoning and the nurses and doctors took tremendous care of me. Their lesson was: this is the people business; we take care of people. It’s not about the toughness. It’s about compassion and care.
Taking care of people is by far the most gratifying, I think, with all medical professionals. As well as teaching the people who take care of people to take care of themselves, because they’re also people. I often mandate to medical professionals: in order for you to take care of others, which you love to do, you have to take care of yourself, because you’re a part of the people. And ensure that they’re not just well, but they’re also achieving their professional and personal goals.
How do you think about leading large teams versus small teams?
In large organizations, it takes the enterprise. I tell everyone: it’s not me, but it’s we. In order to manage the hundreds of thousands of people in our organization, it takes the team. It takes leadership at different levels, which means I have to trust those medical professionals underneath me to lead their teams. Trust in the chain of command, in the leaders at every level, that they are going to provide the platform for readiness or the acumen of their skills.
Smaller organizations are more hands on. Much easier to manage because I’m right there at the point of injury or point of training that I’m responsible for. Being removed so far, it’s a trust in the organizational construct. That also takes leadership by providing the vision, mission, and direction I want the healthcare system to go in.
What do you think defines a good mentor?
I think a good mentor is one who is concerned, knowledgeable, and invested. Who is unadulterated, giving you guidance and pouring into you as a leader. Mentors are the sounding board that listen to you, but also tell you when you’re wrong. The choice is yours, but they’re still the wind beneath your wing. One of my mentors was former Secretary James Peek. When I was in the School of Advanced military studies, he said, “you broke the glass ceiling by getting into this training. I’m now your career manager.” As we were talking about assignments, he said, “Here’s what they offered you, here’s what you could do, but here’s what I think you should do.” Mentors give you that sage wisdom. I have a Rolodex full of mentors to help me achieve the success that I have.
How did the Army organize for COVID-19?
The five R’s in my strategy and priorities are ready, reformed, reorganized, response, relevant. The responsiveness R is where the army had to adjust, adapt, and overcome. We’re used to being called upon to fight and win wars. This war was something different; we had to adapt. Initially, we took our combat support hospitals and field hospitals, and deployed those to New York and Seattle, Washington. We learned from those deployments that we were not organized correctly. As we reorganized, we named it the Urban Augmentation Medical Taskforce (UAMTS). Now you had 80 something soldier teams that would go into cities and reinforce all the hospitals. Then the country needed vaccine support, so we reorganized into vaccine teams. Then finally, community-based task forces. We undergirded Health and Human Services as well as the CDC with army personnel to get after the whole-of-government approach for COVID.
Gary Bisbee 0:06
Washington, D.C., is my home away from home. I’ve worked here for the better part of three decades as a founder, entrepreneur, policy expert and author.
Don Rucker 0:10
Probably the longest title. Everybody sort of shortened it to ONC for sanity’s sake.
Gary Bisbee 0:15
I’ve learned leadership secrets from many health care executives who understand that Washington is the largest payer and regulator of health care.
Nancy-Ann DeParle 0:25
She said, well, because you’ll never get a husband if you do that.
Gary Bisbee 0:29
I began interviewing health care leaders many years ago because what better way to learn how they think, why they make it to the top and how they remain there?
Think about, what was your most challenging engagement.
Greg Carpenter 0:40
Health care has been the most difficult problem, as you said.
Gary Bisbee 0:43
We’ll talk about that later.
The military demands excellence in leadership. Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle is an outstanding example. General Dingle is the Surgeon General of the United States Army, as well as the Commanding General for the Army Medical Command. Leading over 100,000 soldiers and civilians, he’s responsible for all things army medicine, from training to equipment logistics to managing hospitals. What keeps General Dingle going is his drive to make a difference in people’s lives. This fits well with his medical mission because healthcare is all about taking care of people. General Dingle shares with us his leadership lessons and global experiences. It doesn’t matter if you’re a newly commissioned officer or a three-star general, the principles of leadership are the same. We discussed the value of trust, listening, and mentorship. General Dingle has had a variety of mentors who served as sounding boards or provided guidance throughout his career. In turn, he is committed to providing mentorship to others. We discussed the Army’s global response to COVID-19 and how general Dingle works to conserve fighting strength.
Good afternoon, General Dingle, and welcome.
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 2:04
Thank you, Gary. Good to be here.
Gary Bisbee 2:07
We appreciate your service, first of all, and we’re delighted to have you here at the microphone.
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 2:12
Thank you for your support.
Gary Bisbee 2:14
The show is about leadership. And as a highly decorated military leader, we’re anxious to hear your views about leadership. We’d like to dig into the background of our guests to learn a little bit more about what led you to become a leader. So why don’t we start with what was life like for you growing up, Scott?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 2:37
I am a student of leadership, so from the time that I was little, I was an athlete, and grew up playing sports. I’m from a military family. My dad was enlisted in the Air Force, did 20 years in the Air Force, and retired in the Washington DC area. Along that course of his career, my sister and I followed in my dad’s footsteps and were very talented athletes. From the time I was little, I always was the captain of the team, whether football, basketball, baseball, track, and that started that path on leadership because you always have to build the team. Not me, but the team. As a little kid growing up as the captain and leading teams, it automatically transitioned as I got over into military service.
Gary Bisbee 3:27
Sometimes people think about leadership like athletics. In your case, you’re a terrific athlete. Some people are natural musicians. Do you consider yourself a natural leader, Scott?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 3:41
That’s that old question everybody asks about leadership: are leaders born or are leaders made? I say yes to both. Some are born with those traits that stand out that facilitate good leadership, while yet others learn it through the various schools and education and leadership seminars, and they inculcate that into leadership DNA. I am a student of both, again, as I mentioned, born an athlete and always captain of the team. But yet along the way, especially when it came to military service, the training that the military taught me through ROTC through active duty service. And then you mentioned the mute music. I also was a musician playing the saxophone. And so all those things have facilitated coming together as a team, even musicians who were the first year, second year in the orchestra all coming together under the orchestrator or the orchestra. So yes is the answer.
Gary Bisbee 4:38
What about your parents? Did they influence your leadership style, Scott?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 4:42
They did. Both my parents were also athletes. At Syracuse University, my mom played field hockey. My dad was a superstar track and baseball athlete but the one thing their styles taught me was the humility that in spite of being a good athlete, and I to work on it, I can’t say I was always perfect. I was a hothead athlete initially, but mom and dad would always say, “Okay, Scotty, you have to calm down. You have to bring and lead the team and not get upset because something or play or sound doesn’t go right.” They taught me early that humility is not about me, it’s about the team. As a good leader, how do you get the whole team across the line? Their servant leadership poured into me and helped shape my leadership style today.
Gary Bisbee 5:31
What led you to the US Army, especially since your father was in the Air Force? I’m surprised he lets you get into the army.
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 5:43
Growing up in a military family, Air Force military brat, born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, White Sands Missile Range. After I was born, we went to Misawa Air Force Base in Japan, and New Mexico, and then Japan for three years. We came here to the National Capital Area, Washington, DC, Maryland area when I was four years old, the entire time there did 20 years and the Air Force retired and then he was a Capitol Police officer and retired again, the entire time, my dad would just talk about got to get your commission, you’d be a commissioned officer and go into reserves. That is something special. My dad had achieved a level of Tech Sergeant E6 and talked about the struggles of him getting promoted, but yet seeing officers was something that he thought was really a great achievement, regardless of race, creed, or color, just the leadership aspect. My dad is also from New York, White Plains, New York, and went to White Plains High School and West Point is not too far from White Plains. All I heard growing up from my dad was, “You’re gonna go to West Point. You’re gonna go to West Point. Yeah, you need to go to West Point.” At the time, I wanted nothing to do with the military. I would tell Dad, “I am not going into the military. I don’t want people telling me what to do. I’m not standing in lines. I’m not wearing a uniform. No, no, no.” When I got to high school, I was heavily recruited. VMI came to recruit and my dad and I received the pitches. At the time, VMI was getting ready to go coed. These are the 80s. As they’re getting ready to go coed, I knew they were still all-male. So the coach did his pitch and I asked, “Do you guys have girls there?” He said, “No.” I said, “I’m not going to school with a whole bunch of dudes. No way in the world, not me.” My dad blew a gasket. He was hot and the maddest he has ever been at me. He said, “You threw away the opportunity to be commissioned officer” and gave me the rundown so I went to my dad and said, “Hey, look, I promise you if you allow me to go to the school I want to go to, I’ll take ROTC. I promise you. Just get off my back, please.” That’s what started the path. I ended up going to Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. I took ROTC, ran track, played football, and wasn’t the best cadet because I was always gone playing division one athletics. And I was bitten by the bug. I think my junior year, my junior year is when it finally turned, my goal was Hey, I’m gonna go to professional football. We’re going to Dallas and Pittsburgh at Morgan as a defensive back. I’ll try out to play a few years, and then I’ll come back and go to law school. I was a sociology and English major, and I was going to be a lawyer. Well, when I went to the basic camp, that’s when I realized that I was good at the military. I graduated number one in my cycle of about 2,000-3,000 cadets. I graduated at the top of the entire camp, and I had fun doing it. That was my first time putting it all together. That may mean that the army is just like sports. There’s a leader, there’s a team and the whole team has to get the ball across the goal line, or finish together or win together. That transition ultimately ended up coming in on active duty for my senior year and came into the military because I had to kind of grow up and take care of some responsibilities that I got myself into. And the rest was history.
Gary Bisbee 9:17
The history is a remarkable history. I’m sure your father, who’s passed away since, was very, very proud of you, Scott.
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 9:26
He was. He was able to promote me to Brigadier General. As I matriculated through the military, he was at every promotion and super proud. When I got to the rank of colonel, I was taking over a medical brigade in Europe. At that point, my dad’s health really started to fail—quadruple bypass surgery, defibrillator, pacemaker—and I’m going overseas to take command. My dad was so proud. He would tell people, “Oh yeah, my son Scott. He’s gonna be a general.” I said, “Dad, don’t tell people that. I’m not being a general. I’m going to take command of a medical brigade that has hospitals and units underneath it, then I’m going to be a commander.” Lo and behold, I go over there and I get picked up for Brigadier General and they bring me back early. When I came back, the doctors at Washington Hospital Center were phenomenal. They said, “Hey, Colonel Dingle, your dad’s amazing.” The heart section would tell me, “Your dad just keeps telling us to keep him alive so he can promote his son to Brigadier General.” He’s a Medical Service Corps officer. That’s what they did and it touched them so much. That was probably one of the greatest days of my life for him to promote me to one star. Then unfortunately two, three months later, he passed away due to heart failure.
Gary Bisbee 10:48
God bless him. Scott, where did healthcare come into all of this or medical care?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 10:54
As I started out, initially, I was going into reserves, military police, and then I switched over to come on active duty when I came on active duty. I ultimately was in the Medical Service Corps branch. I selected the Medical Service Corps, my top choice. Coming out of Morgan State University as a distinguished military graduate, I received my top choice. One of the previous graduates’ commission officers came back to talk about army medicine. It was my first time really learning about the Military Health System from the army perspective, and what it did. He talked about the great things he did. He was a hospital administrator and a medical logistician. And he did all these things with doctors, nurses in the medical mission. And that caught my attention. I was branched. And then I came in on active duty as a second lieutenant Medical Service Corps, which started my career in the military health system.
Gary Bisbee 11:50
One personal question that always comes to mind, I traveled around a lot as a kid, given what my dad did, but how do you stay in touch with your family when you’re overseas and all these global commands?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 12:05
When you overt, part of our mission is to deploy, fight, and win. Thank goodness in today’s time there’s so much social media that allows us to have conductivity. Early in the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, we didn’t have as much telepresence back home so it was the old-fashioned stand in line to get on a military line to talk to our family members, and as well as email when deployed in combat. Nowadays, when we move so much around the world, whether the continental United States or what we call the overseas continent in the United States. We leverage social media, we leverage the Zoom, we leverage our cell phones to stay in contact with family. My mission now as the Surgeon General and the United States Army Medical Command command in general, my footprints the whole world, and so I have medical soldiers and units, hospitals and detachments dental preventive med veterinary, from Korea, to Hawaii, to Germany, to Italy to Africa, you name the continent, and we are there and present. And so as I do my battlefield circulation, what we call it going around to visit the units, I tried to keep a balance where I’m not gone all the time so that I’m back home at touchpoints with my family with my staff, and not allowing the demand for me to be present globally, to take away from the family. So I keep my priorities in order to help me keep balance.
Gary Bisbee 13:35
Why don’t we turn to your career for a moment, and then we’ll dig into leadership. Can you share with us your two current commands?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 13:44
I’m first the Surgeon General for the United States Army. I have what’s called title 10 responsibility of training Manning, equipping, leading sustaining the army medicine so everything in the army that’s medical, my course consists of medical corps doctors, dentists, nurses, physician assistants, audiologists, everything medical, including listed medics. The total army medicine force is about 121,000 plus soldiers and civilians. At the same time. I’m also the Commanding General for the United States Army Medical Command, which means all of the medical units in our hospitals and our dental facilities, and our veterinary clinics all fall under the United States Army Medical Command. So roughly just over 59 hospitals and medical centers and clinics around the world and we start talking about the brick and mortar locations, broken down into regional health systems or hospital systems consistent of 26,000 and regions in my east coast hospital system. I have all of those 51,000 plus soldiers and civilians consistent of both military and civilian, medical professionals of all areas that fall underneath my command.
Gary Bisbee 15:13
Scott, it seems like you’re working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. What’s your favorite part of the job?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 15:21
A lot of people also ask me, “What keeps you up at night with your job?” I tell them my iPhone because my iPhone is constantly going off. I have to respond to the Secretary, the Chief of Staff, the army, or the chairman, or the Department of Defense, or whoever is calling, so that keeps me up. My favorite part of the job though, in spite of the 1,000s of people, the main mission is making a difference in the lives of other people, not just from the health care aspect, and what the hospitals in the medical centers are doing, but also with the staff and taking care of the people, helping them to achieve their professional goals, the leader development of the team, and then watching the entire team, move the ball down the field with success. And so I love impacting the lives of other people, whether actually in the hospital, or on the staff and teams themselves, and accomplishing the mission and making a difference.
Gary Bisbee 16:21
You’ve had a number of commands through your careers. When you go into a new command, how do you set priorities?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 16:29
I set my port priorities based on my next command, or my boss above me, for instance, as the commanding general of the United States Army Medical Command, my priorities are set based on the cheapest staff and Secretary of the Army, I take my next hire according to my boss’s priorities. Then I juxtapose that with the mission I have. And then my people, as I take that through, when I merge all that together, it basically allows me to establish the priorities for the organization. In the army, we’re really pragmatic about that when we determine what our priorities are, what our mission is, what the campaign is called, the campaign plan for the organization. I have a vision, a mission in the state, and a strategy for the entire army medicine enterprise, as well as for the hospitals and the medical centers of providing world-class quality care, as we train and prepare combat medics and medical professionals to deploy fight and win and to conserve the fighting strength in combat. And so people readiness, modernization, change, ready, reorganize, reformed, responsive, and relevant priorities that are nested under my boss, the Chief of Staff of the Army, as I have the mission to take care of the soldiers and civilians assigned to our POWs camps and stations.
Gary Bisbee 17:57
Thinking back to all these commands, was there one command that stands out in your mind where you’ve learned more about leadership?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 18:05
Every job is like the best job. Every last command is the best command. I’m now at the top of the pinnacle command in the United States Army Medical Command. Out of the all the commands I’ve had at every level, I think my favorite would go back to my very first command when I was a captain, when I was a young 29, 30-year-old company-grade officer, leading a medical company in a combat unit consisting of about 100 personnel, a Ford support medical company, we call it a Charlie, Charlie made by Charlie rock because that is that first point within a Brigade Combat Team of saving life and resuscitation and forward surgical teams. And the reason that I like that one the best is because it was at the lowest level of leadership and command that I learned the basic leadership principles that carried me throughout my career, of communication, problem-solving of training, the organization of getting after the issue, a lot of times we spend the majority of our time working on fires, putting out fires and, and the problem issues that may arise whether medical supplies surgery, a sustainment training, no matter what it is, but at that level, I was able to really be right there in the mix of things, solving problems and training the organization as I matriculate it up to where I’m at right now, one of my best friends and mentors, he told me, “Scott, just because now you are a three-star General or a one-star general’s general officer don’t change your leadership style from what you did at the foundational organizational position that you had as a company commander.” It gets back to the fundamentals, taking care of the people’s communication, and showing that they’re trained. What is the command? All the hospital climate and make sure that is conducive for mission accomplishment. All those things in my communication measures address my staff crazy because I’m pulled everywhere. I never say no because I want to communicate with people because I want to connect with them. I learned that from my first command, and that was my favorite.
Gary Bisbee 20:18
What’s the most challenging decision you think that you’ve had to make over the course of your career?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 20:33
I would narrow it down to making a decision to stay in army medicine, but as I was coming up in the medical field in the arena as a medical operation and plans officer and an administrator, I was really good at what I do. And I got to a point where the, what we call the logisticians, nonmedical people who deal with transportation supply Quartermaster maintenance, we’re pulling me in that direction, saying, hey, look, you need to come over here. And early in my career, I spent a lot of time on that side of the house as a medical leader and then going back and forth to a hospital assignment. And that initially was a tough decision, because they were putting the carrot out in front of me about, “Hey, come this direction be this.” I turned it down. I wanted to stay medical. It was tough, but at the time, because I really didn’t know the full impact of what army medicine offered. However, it was the best decision. So I say not difficult, probably the best decision that I made to stay medical, and to matriculate it up leading medical units, hospitals and hospital systems and, and the policy and procedure. So I wouldn’t say it was most difficult. That was probably the best decision that I made.
Gary Bisbee 21:53
It’s kind of like the old days of being a recruited athlete, Scott, the various colleges going after you Hmm, absolutely. What have you found the most interesting thing about healthcare over the course of your time is the medical care over the course of your time?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 22:08
Again, the same fundamental lesson is that health care is about people, and those in the healthcare profession are passionate about taking care of people. That by far is a phenomenal lesson I learned when I was assigned to my first hospital as a first lieutenant. I was coming from a combat medical unit and one of my mentors was a nurse. I was coming in strong and “Oh, you got to be a leader” and “he’s a leader” and she sat me down because I got food poisoning. I got food poisoning and the nurses and the doctors took tremendous care of the young leader. Their lesson was, “Okay, all right, Scotty, but this is the people business as we take care of people.” When they come into our hospital, our number one thing is to make sure that we fix them, that we get them right, that they’re comfortable. It’s not about the who and this and the toughness and drive. It’s about compassion, care, and taking care of people the same way we just took care of you. I was a student with my eyes and ears open. Taking care of people is by far the most gratifying experience for all medical professionals, as well as teaching the people who take care of people to take care of themselves because they are also people. I often mandate throughout the command and Army medicine, “Okay, medical professionals, in order for you to take care of others, which you love to do, you have to take care of yourself because you’re a part of the people.” I’m here to make sure you’re taking care of yourself so that you can save lives and make a difference in the lives of the soldiers and family members and retirees that you come across. So it’s the people who benefit the most by taking care of people and ensuring that they’re not just well, but they’re also achieving their professional and personal goals if you’re on the healthcare delivery side of the house.
Gary Bisbee 24:07
That’s well said. When you think about promoting a subordinate, what are the key characteristics that you’re working for?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 24:16
I’m looking for excellence in the job that you do in your profession. Have you mastered the skills, the requirements? We call in on the operational the combat side of medicine, individual critical task list, the critical things that you need to be able to perform as a doctor as a surgeon, as a physician assistant as a nurse as a dentist, dentist, a veterinarian, a lab officer, a research scientist nuclear medicine, regardless of what it is, do you have the basic foundation to perform your job with excellence and as you perform your job with excellence In the army, we get annual performance evaluations. So in the medical professionals, I’m teaching my Corps, Medical Corps, Medical Service Corps, Nurse Corps, Dental Corps, specialty Corps, enlisted courts civilian court, that one, we got to be proficient in what we do, because, in medicine, everything is a live-fire range, because we’re saving lives and taking care of people. So it’s not a training event, like the rest of the army. Everything is a live-fire range. We have to be great and perfect in what we do, world-class quality healthcare from the foxhole to the fixed facility, and then ensuring that those officers and that enlisted personnel can perform the mission and do it with excellence. And that’s what I look for when I’m promoting officers and leaders and enlisted personnel and soldiers.
Gary Bisbee 25:50
Scott, I think you have roughly a couple of 100,000 people that report to you in one way or another. What do you think about managing large teams versus small teams? There’s probably a difference in how you think about leading a large team versus a small team. What do you think about that?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 26:11
You said it in your word team. In large organizations, it takes the enterprise. I tell everyone, “It’s not me, it’s we.” In order for me to manage the hundreds of 1000s of people in our organization, that takes the team, it takes leadership at a different level, which means as me as the commander at the top, I have to trust those medical professionals that are underneath me to lead their teams. And so when a large organization, the enterprise trusts and confidence in your subordinates, because you can’t micromanage Well, you can try to micromanage a large organization. There are some things you just can’t put your arm around. And this beast was called army medicine. You can’t put your arms around the missions and the number of medical professionals and training requirements. As we conserve the fighting strength and combat, as well as ensure the readiness and health and peacetime, it’s too big, and in the ranges is just too large. So trusting in the chain of command in the leaders at every level, that they are going to provide the platform for readiness or the proficiency or the accuracy of their skills, and then ensuring that they can take that when called upon and deployed into combat. So there’s trust and confidence that I have to depend on and training the leaders in smaller organizations is more hands-on and much easier to manage because now I’m right there at the point of injury or at the point of training that I’m responsible for being removed. So far, it’s a trust in the organizational construct. But that also takes training and leadership by providing the vision, the mission, the end state, and the direction that I want the healthcare system to go in.
Gary Bisbee 28:06
All leaders need to be good listeners. Any tips that you’ve picked up through your career about being a good listener?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 28:15
You have to listen because it’s not you that I have 171 consultants in every specialty in medicine period from cardiology to radiology, ob-gyn, nuclear science lab unit 171. Those 171 leaders are in touch and in contact with over 80,000 plus soldiers in the active-duty National Guard and Reserves. Each of them has a unique perspective whether you’re on active duty on the reserves or national guard on how military medicine is performed in their line of responsibility. Radiologists in the guard, with their equipment and their reserve versus active duty in a medical center, like Walter Reed. Each of them has different challenges and issues. And my consultants are my eyes and ears that are out there that bring those issues at the tactical level up to the Surgeon General. So they help inform me by providing me what’s going on out there in the field or in their specialty. That also cascades out to the organization, the units, whether a field hospital, whether a Hospital Center, a medical center, or a medical company, all with medical professionals who are facing challenges and issues as they take care of people. That chain and that listening channel come up directly to me. I flattened a line of communications and I bring all leaders in once a quarter to listen and hear as well as coach, teach, mentor, and inform on the way ahead. That takes two-way channels, not just me speaking but me listening to twice as much as I speak so that I can facilitate their success in their various missions and professions.
Gary Bisbee 30:07
Let’s turn to mentors for a moment. You mentioned you had a nurse as a mentor at some point in your past. What do you think defines a good mentor?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 30:18
I think a good mentor is one who is concerned, who is knowledgeable, who is invested. Who is unadulterated, giving you the guidance and pouring into you, as a leader in your profession. It doesn’t always have to be someone that is in your exact specialty. But someone who has that wisdom who has traveled the path, and sometimes it’s even those closest to you going along, who have achieved things that you want to achieve. But anyone that can advise, coach, pour into you and help you navigate what I call “the professional medical career,” is not a minefield to success. Mentors are the sounding board that listens to you but also tells you when you’re wrong. They advise you, as many of my mentors said. When I came to crossroads in my career, they would be like, okay, Scotty, here’s what you can do, here’s what is offered, here’s what I think you should do. But the choice is yours, they give you the choice, but yet they’re still always the wind beneath your wing, to help you fly on that Asmath that you have chosen. And so mentors are, are always available, man they are, they are something that is priceless. Because as I look back on my success, and I look back at my promotion ceremonies to one star, two-star, three-star, I had the church field to capacity, roughly three to 500 people. And everybody in there was a mentor, a family member, a friend. I tell folks whilst I was hard-headed it kind of came up. So I took a whole bunch of extra mentors. And one of my mentors who just said, sitting with this week, Secretary, former Secretary James peek of the former Surgeon General of the Army, as well as Secretary of the VA Veterans Administration, he told me when I was a young major, he grabbed me by the ear. As I was in the School of Advanced military studies, he says, Scotty, okay, you just broke a glass ceiling by getting into this, this training. So I’m now your career manager. And I’ve always been your mentor. And he gave me an opportunity. As we were talking to Simon, he said, You know what, here’s what they offered you, oh, here’s what you could do. But here’s what I think you should do. And so I said, Okay, Secretary peak, sir. I’m going to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, cuz that’s what the guidance says, I understand. And so mentors give you that Sage wisdom. And that says wisdom from all my mentors. I have a Rolodex full of mentors to help me achieve the success that I have.
Gary Bisbee 32:50
How much time do you spend mentoring others right now?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 32:59
Any time that I can, I want to pour into others. I was doing a session this morning at this one course. And then I also chatted with you as my staff went crazy, too. They get mad at me because I never say no. I always tell them to email me, and I challenged him to email me. I challenged him to call me to get on the calendar. My EA, “Sir, there’s not enough time today. There are too many people. You can’t do every promotion. You can’t go.” I said “We sure can. I said we could do this one because I got this one minute.” Whether they’re texting me or emailing me, I put a lot of time into mentoring. As I tell folks, like I just told a group a little while ago, I want you to be better than me. I want you to go higher than me. I want you to be the first four-star medical person in the history of our country. Even though we’ve never had one, I want you to be the Surgeon General and leave army medicine, I want you to achieve the highest things in the medical profession that you can. It’s up to me to make sure I facilitate and set the conditions for you to make those decisions to perform, to achieve your goals. When I was coming up real young and early on the mentors were coming but also saw a lot where, “Man, why didn’t this leader do that? Or why did this doctor do this? Or the administrator? When I become a commander, I’m not gonna do that. I’m gonna bring everybody in. Hey, look, here’s the opportunity,” because I want them to be successful and not competitive against each other. It’s not me against you, but I want everybody to win. And so that’s been my philosophy. I love mentoring. I love leadership. I love leader development. I’m a student of it myself. And the moment I believe that we stopped being mentors, coaches, teachers, we stopped being leaders, because leaders are always learning and always coaching and mentoring and teaching is our responsibility.
Gary Bisbee 34:48
The army is obviously an incredibly diverse organization. How do you ensure that you’re hearing all of the diverse voices in the US Army?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 35:00
What is that battlefield circulate as we call it, as I travel to all the different organizations, I have a, what’s called a cig my Strategic Initiatives group or leader, as Eric you met, who helps me plan out and target everywhere I go, my audiences are diverse, and the message doesn’t change. That response when you meet the rock stars and superstars, whether it’s my cardiologist, or whether it’s my dentist, or whether it fits the radiologist, or the dermatologist, or the administrator, or the personnel officer, I meet the rock stars that are out there. And as I’m talking to a diverse crowd, you get diverse responses. I’m a connector, I think leadership is connecting, and that it’s our job to connect with the people, not people that just look like you or that you’re saying gender, but the response to connect with those that are in the profession for the good of the organization and the profession. And so I have a wide diverse crowd that I’ve reached, leverage the virtual platforms like this, as I do commanders conference or last one, I believe we had 800 such teams, or 800 personnel on the conference getting poured into so that they could be successful receiving the mentor, the coach, and the teaching, because I want them to be successful. And then I’m monitoring even with my staff. And we were diverse, and not just in gender and race and color, but also in specialty. I want to have the audiologists on the team I want not operators. I want the doctor and the dentist on Team TSG at the highest levels so they can learn leadership development and see behind the fence on how senior leadership operates. So they can go back out, be great at their profession, but yet through the lessons learned oscillate up to the highest levels of command and success to live their dreams.
Gary Bisbee 36:54
Scott, let’s move to COVID for a bit, obviously a major impact globally. How did you organize for COVID? How did you organize the US Army and your medical command for COVID?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 37:08
One of the five R’s in my strategy and priorities, ready, reformed, reorganized, responsive, and relevant. The army is already organized. Our healthcare system is already organized in the United States Army Medical Command and all the operational units that are outside of our fixed facilities. The responsiveness is where the army had to adjust, adapt and overcome. When COVID hit Korea and started in Asia, we were watching it. And then we saw our army overseas dealing with things that were going to soon hit the shores of our continental United States. So when it hit us on the west coast and the East Coast, you saw the army respond, responsiveness. Now initially, we’re used to calling. When called upon, we deploy, fight, and win wars. Well, this war was something different. It wasn’t the sound of the guns, as we say in the military that we went to conserve the fighting strength to get casualties. It was a silent sound of an enemy in our opponent that was taking out the citizens of our country and not just the military. So there’s something new for us. And so our organization, we had to adapt, so we took our combat support hospitals, we took our field hospitals, and we initially deployed those to the Javits Center in New York into Seattle, Washington to support our nation, the very first point Ground Zeroes for the COVID. For us. We learned from those deployments that we were not organized correctly. So we had to take our hospitals, and we reorganized based on the Health and Human Services, field medical stations concept of 80 or so mixed assemblage of specialties to respond. So now as we reorganize, we called it we call it what we mean we renamed it what we call an urban augmentation, medical task force UA MTS, we’re what we broke up our hospitals into and started deploying urban augmentation medical taskforce to the different states, countries, and towns across the nation. Now you had 80 something soldier teams that were going to the city that now they could break up and reinforce all the different hospitals in that town in that state in that region to provide the backup support and to reinforce the support in support of COVID because they were overwhelmed the wards the ICU er overwhelmed to death overwhelmed. The UA MTS was our responsive reorganization organized force to respond to COVID. And then it shifted from there to vaccine support teams, and now the country needed vaccine support and so we reorganized into our vaccine teams, where we sent out now the medical professionals, as well as the command and control element to support and administer vaccines to the cities in our citizens wherever they were at, in response to what we call mission assignments to health and human services from the various states. And then finally, the community-based Task Force. That’s one of the things that I’m really proud of because there was one of my medical planners who put that together Lieutenant Colonel Tiffany builder back that I gave to Health and Human Services and the US Surgeon General, who helped them organize the states in the country in the private industry into community-based Task Force, tech community-based task force for testing throughout the country. And so all that the army reorganized, but we also undergirded Health and Human Services famous CDC, with army personnel augmenting their staffs to help us get after the whole of government approach for COVID.
Gary Bisbee 41:01
The supply chain with PPE and so on was a huge issue for the civilian hospitals. Was that a major problem for the DOD hospitals?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 41:13
It absolutely was because those same national stocks that health and human services have on standby to reinforce the nation with the same stocks that we were burning through as we were overseas. So Germany and in the Pacific, RPP was being burned. We could not purchase it fast enough because everybody in the rest of the world was purchasing. So it was a competitive demand for PPP. We monitored it very closely. Thank goodness knock on wood, we were able to not go into any levels of black or shortages of RPP, where our medical professionals were not protected. So the response was great. It was challenging that time there were shortages of stocks who would be concerned but the supply chain did ultimately respond to RPP requirements.
Gary Bisbee 42:02
Onto the vaccines, which you mentioned. The vaccines are mandated for all of the military. Did that cause any problems internally with some people maybe not wanting to be vaccinated?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 42:16
There are always soldiers that are not going to want to be vaccinated. There are always medical professionals who have some anxiety about getting the new vaccine. Initially, our vaccine response was slow, however, we are soldiers and we understand that force health protection is very key in our mission. And so when the mandate for vaccines was dictated to us or to us by the Secretary of Defense, we responded. So we started our mandatory vaccine vaccination process, the response has been really overwhelming. However, we have a process set up also for those soldiers who have religious concerns and even medical concerns about it. That’s where the exemption or accepted policy processes were implemented. For those soldiers who have that fear or hesitation to get it, there’s still order out, they can put in for religious exemption or a medical exemption and my medical, their primary care manager will look at it and make a recognition, yes or no religious exemption comes up. And all of those come up to me as a surgeon general, and our sins secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs for approval authority, final approval authority, yes or no, as well as appeal authority to escalate authority at the secretary level. But responses are very good, especially with the active-duty side, the thing that we’re waiting on because we just mandated that vaccination, about two weeks about a week or so now is going to be the response on our reserve and National Guard numbers not so high because they’re, they’re more further away from the flagpole in their soldier citizen missions. And so those are the ones that we’re anticipating we will probably get a little higher declarations or exemption requests, and then we’ll go through the process. Don’t know what those numbers are yet, but I am anticipating that I will give some exemptions or requests for exceptions to come to me.
Gary Bisbee 44:09
Scott, this has been a terrific interview. We very much appreciate your time. I have one last question before we land. A number in our audience is what you might think of as up and coming leaders. What advice would you have for an up-and-coming leader these days in healthcare?
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 44:28
I would tell them to live their dream and pursue their passion in the healthcare profession. Don’t let anyone discourage you. Don’t let anyone tell you no. Don’t let the struggles of academia or professional hurdles stop you from living your dream in the healthcare profession because your passion to preserve and impact the lives of others who do health care is what’s going to make you successful. I would tell you to be the best, be excellent. There’s no room for error when healthcare because it’s precise. We need you to be precise. If you’re precise, if you’re passionate, you’re persistent, and you’re perfect at what you do, there is nothing that can stop you from living your dream of being the best cardiologist, the best doctor, the best nurse, the best administrator, the best veterinarian, or physician assistant, or whatever it may be. Go after your passion. And when you go after your passion in the healthcare industry, you can always have the gratification of, again, impacting the lives of people. That’s what we do in the healthcare industry. But you will also be living your joy. And now your joy will never be a job nine to five because you love what you do. But you also got to be careful as Gary mentioned earlier, you got to keep the balance too. Because often in the healthcare industry, we love what we do with passion. I don’t know if you all can tell, but I’m very passionate about military medicine, and I love what I do. But yet I also get tired. And I have to have that balance so I can continue to lead and take care of others. My surgeons all want general thinking. We want more surgeries. That’s it. I don’t want you to burn out by doing 500 heart procedures a month or a year. I need you to have that balance and have that sanity to be resilient so you can respond. COVID had a huge demand, and that’s within the Military Health System. But then I took those same military professionals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and medics, and then sent them out into the communities where we’re dealing with more death, with more dying with more disease. As you all know, healthcare professionals connect with their patients, because you want to see them win, and to get well, but yet they have to deal with the death and the loss. And then they come back in the military, and you’re still dealing with sickness and disease and dying. But the thing is, I needed to be resilient, I need you to step off the race track, to be resilient so that you can continue to take care of others by first taking care of yourself. Practice balance, important versus urgent. pursue your dreams, don’t let anybody stop you. Be excellent, and be the best and take care of people.
Gary Bisbee 47:23
You are passionate in what you do and it’s very impressive to see. General Dingle, we very much appreciate your time today, and good continual good luck in the future.
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle 47:33
Gary, thanks a lot and good luck and continue to have great success and a tremendous impact in what you’re doing. Thank you for your leadership and the mission that you’re performing and to help build our future for not just Army medicine, but medicine across the country is phenomenal. Thank you for what you do.