Nadja West

First African American Army Surgeon General and Former Commanding General, US Army Medical Command
Nadja West
  • First African American Army Surgeon General, first African American woman 3-star General in the Army, and the highest-ranking woman graduate from West Point
  • More than 20 years experience in executive leadership, crisis management, and disaster response — instrumental in crafting the DOD medical response to the Ebola crisis
  • Named one of Washington’s Most Powerful Women by Washingtonian Magazine
  • Speaks expertly on effectively leading teams through times of uncertainty and crisis

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A trailblazer in leadership, Lieutenant General (ret) Nadja West is the 44th Army Surgeon General and the former Commanding General of US Army Medical Command (USAMEDCOM). She is the first African American woman 3-star General in the Army’s history, and currently the highest-ranking woman to ever graduate from West Point.

Exclusively represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau, West shares her story of grit, perseverance, strength, and breaking boundaries, even when faced with adversity. Taking audiences on her journey to becoming the Army’s first African American woman 3-star General, she motivates them to overcome challenges with self-belief, bravery, and balance. With more than 20 years of experience in executive leadership, crisis management, and disaster response — including her instrumental role in crafting the DOD medical response to the Ebola crisis — West speaks expertly on leadership tactics to effectively lead teams through times of uncertainty and crisis.

As Commanding General of USAMEDCOM, West managed an $11 billion budget and led an organization of more than 130,000 healthcare professionals. She supported more than 4 million people around the globe — responsible for medical centers, community hospitals, and clinics; dental, veterinary, and public health facilities; research, education, and training platforms. Known for her decisive leadership, West led the Army Medical Department through the most comprehensive transformation that military medicine has seen in more than three decades, and throughout this transition, ensured that the medical readiness of the force remained high, medical support was timely, and that the quality of healthcare provided to move than 4 million lives remained outstanding. A graduate of George Washington School of Medicine, she completed residencies in Family Medicine and Dermatology, and has held various clinical, operational, and leadership positions throughout her 30+ year career as a soldier.

West gratefully acknowledges the trailblazers who helped clear the path for her to follow and is continuing to blaze the path for others to follow. Among many Army firsts, she was the first woman selected to be the Division Surgeon for 1st Armored Division and the first woman selected as the Joint Staff Surgeon — advising the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on all things medical. West was also the first African American — man or woman — confirmed by the Senate to be the Army’s Surgeon General.

In addition to West’s many military accolades, she was named as one of Washington’s Most Powerful Women in Washingtonian Magazine, the recipient of the Daughters of the American Revolution Margaret Cochran Corbin Award and CEO Forum Group’s Transformative CEO Award in Leadership for the Military category, and awarded the Armed Forces Medical Advocate Award by Essence Magazine. In 2022, West was inducted into the US Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame and was the first women ever to be honored with the West Point Association of Graduates Distinguished Graduate Award.

West has also been honored by George Washington University with the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award and was among the inaugural recipients of the university’s Monumental Alumni award. She holds an honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service from the George Washington University and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Methodist University.

West was a Hauser Leader at the Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership for the 2019-2020 academic year, and is currently a Distinguished Fellow of the Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics. In addition to being a voting member of the NCAA Board of Governors, she serves on the boards of directors for Johnson & Johnson, Nucor, Tempus Labs, and Tenet Healthcare. She is also on the boards of the Bob Woodruff Foundation, Americares, and the Olmsted Foundation, as well as a trustee of the National Recreation Foundation and Mount St. Mary’s University.

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Leading Through Uncertainty. According to Nadja West, the most essential quality in a great leader is empathy — where “leading is all about the team of people you lead.” This is especially true in times of crisis and uncertainty. In this presentation, Nadja draws on her more than 20 years of experience in executive leadership, crisis management, and disaster response — including leading more than 130,000 Army healthcare professionals and crafting the DOD medical response to the Ebola crisis — to inspire groups to embody the essences of Army leadership and share effective leadership tactics for providing teams with purpose, direction, and motivation during difficult times. Throughout these challenges, she thought strategically, developed confidence, and stayed connected to her sense of purpose. Sharing her career lessons-learned, West demonstrates that good leadership and a loyal team come from strong communication, truly understanding your people, treating them with respect, and leading with empathy, particularly through hard times.

Why Not You? Nadja West’s story is one of grit, perseverance, strength, and breaking boundaries, even when faced with adversity. In this talk, she shares her journey from being adopted as the youngest of twelve in a military family to becoming the first African American woman 3-star General in Army history – showcasing the power of asking the question: Why not me? Taking audiences behind-the-scenes of her storied career, from taking care of sick and wounded soldiers as a field surgeon in Operation Desert Storm to supporting more than 4 million people globally as Army Surgeon General, she demonstrates the importance of self-belief, bravery, and balance in overcoming challenges. Audiences will walk away empowered to face obstacles head on, be better leaders, and remove “I can’t” from their vocabulary.

Work-Life Balance: Managing Different Elements in Correct Proportions. In this talk, Nadja West – accomplished military leader, female trailblazer, mother, wife, medical professional, and more – shares her strategies and lessons-learned on achieving work-life balance. Using examples from her own experience defining and managing priorities for herself, her family, and her career, she demonstrates that to maintain balance, it is up to you to define the correct proportions – not someone else. That we must determine what is important and what we can live without, what we are willing to let go and what takes priority.

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