SAN DIEGO –
Ms. Donna MacKenzie, Naval Medical Center San Diego’s (NMCSD) legendary Executive Assistant to the Commander, closed out a distinguished 52-year career of Federal Service Sep. 30. MacKenzie spent an amazing 50 of these years at NMCSD where she has become an institution.
Much like a ship figurehead in the Age of Sail, MacKenzie has been at the forefront of the NMCSD’s voyage all while serving and guiding 20 Commanders and its combined crew of thousands who have passed the halls of the command.
“Donna has been there in good times and bad times for countless officers, enlisted, civil service and contractors who have served at Naval Medical Center San Diego,” said Mr. Mark Boman, chief of staff, Naval Medical Forces Pacific and director, Civilian Corps, Navy Medicine.
For Boman, MacKenzie played a vital part in his career during some of the most trying moments.
“She was my rock and mentor guiding me through one of my most challenging moments in my career while serving as acting commander of Naval Medical Center San Diego following the passing of a Sailor in 2004 who died in combat,” related Boman. “Indeed, her poise, sensibility, wisdom and subject matter expertise benefited me as it did many, many others.”
Since MacKenzie’s employment began at NMCSD in 1972, not only did she serve superbly in her in primary job, but simultaneously and consistently helped patients navigate through the military health care system all the while displaying immense compassion and understanding.
At this same time in our Nation’s history, the Vietnam War was approaching its end. Service members returning from Vietnam were in need of some compassionate treatment as many endured an unwelcomed and sometimes hostile reception.
“When I started at Balboa the Vietnam conflict was winding down and, as POWs were freed, I got to meet some of them as they passed through the hospital,” said MacKenzie. “All this seems so long-forgotten, except occasionally I get visitors who were around during that time and it reminds us of the great sacrifices so many have made – entirely selfless.”
During her tenure, MacKenzie has had four former NMCSD commanders become U.S. Navy surgeons general.
“I can attest that for every single commander that I have worked for, there was an entire medical center staff working hard to support Navy Medicine,” added MacKenzie. “That equates to thousands of dedicated public servants whose aim has been to deliver great quality health care and ensure that our Sailors were ready to meet our Nation’s call.”
Capt. Kim Davis, NMCSD director, first met MacKenzie in the early 1990s.
“Aspiring to become a Navy doctor, I recall setting foot at Naval Medical Center San Diego when I was applying to medical school and being interviewed for a letter of recommendation by the then commander of the hospital, Rear Admiral Robert Halder,” said Davis. “If it wasn’t for Donna making time in the Admiral’s busy schedule, I may not have ever received that letter of recommendation. Those are my earliest memories of Donna and when I first learned that I would be assuming command of NMCSD, I knew that I would be in good hands with Donna as my executive assistant.”
MacKenzie’s recognition extends to the highest level of Navy Medicine.
Awarded the Superior Civilian Service Award by Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, Navy Surgeon General and Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, a portion of the citation reads, “Her ability to prioritize and balance requests for Commanders’ time ensured an accurate understanding of processes, stressors, wins, and the pulse of the command. She mentored hundreds of senior officers and enlisted, and ensured timely responses to inquires permitting her Commanders to remain focused on strategic priorities.”
And as NMCSD’s commander from December 2013 to October 2014, Gillingham himself personally benefited from MacKenzie’s stellar performance.
“I never imagined that I would be in this position for these many years; and, now looking back, what I would tell anyone is to cherish the moments and opportunities that you’re offered because it is in the service to others that you will value most when you look back,” said MacKenzie. “My time has come to thank everyone who I’ve had the pleasure to work for and work with; know how valuable of an organization you belong to; and, be proud of what you bring to the fight as you make a bigger difference than you can possibly imagine. You never know what you’ll be doing tomorrow.”
MacKenzie’s departure comes with the realization that institutions like her are impossible to replace. But as she embarks on this new chapter of her life there are those who remain indebted to her, and wish her fair winds and following seas.
NMCSD's mission is to prepare service members to deploy in support of operational forces, deliver high quality healthcare services and shape the future of military medicine through education, training and research. NMCSD employs more than 6,000 active duty military personnel, civilians and contractors in Southern California to provide patients with world-class care anytime, anywhere.