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New commander takes 47th MDG reins

LAUGHLIN AFB, TEXAS -- Col. Lawra Lee took command of the 47th Medical Group from Col. Laura Torres-Reyes in a change-of-command ceremony July 14 at Club XL.

Prior to coming here, Colonel Lee was the commander of the 8th Medical Group at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea.

Although this isn't her first assignment as a commander of a group, Colonel Lee looks forward to working with Laughlin members and making a difference here.

"I couldn't be happier to be here," she said during her address to Laughlin members at the ceremony. "One, I get to do what I consider to be one of the best jobs in the Air Force, commanding a group, and two, I have the rare opportunity to do it for a second time in my career."

Apart from the medical group's mission of taking care of people, growing leaders, improving innovating processes and fighting for fitness, the colonel said her strategy to effectively accomplish the mission is packaged in what she described as the "Big Rocks."

"One of the lessons I've learned from the school of hard knocks over the past 24 years is that organizations need to determine what things are most important to accomplish and to devote appropriate resources to ensure success in execution. It's what I call the 'Big Rocks,' she said. "It's those things I want the group to be especially cognizant of, not at the expense of everything else we do every day, but it's a way of allocating otherwise scarce resources to those issues we deem to be of paramount importance."

The new commander said she hadn't yet determined which "Big Rocks" she wants to pursue here, but high on her list of what-to-do is support for the training mission and ensuring the continued health of all XLers and their families.

Also on her list is preparation for the next Medical Inspector General's inspection and the civilian accreditation survey from the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, tentatively scheduled for 2007.

"The IG inspects for mission readiness; AAAHC surveys us on the basis of exactly the same quality of care standards used for our civilian counterparts," she said. "I need to mention my predecessor, Colonel Torres-Reyes, established some superb programs and a culture of excellence in this group. My goal is to sustain and improve all those programs. Finally, we all need to be thinking 'medical readiness' and ensure that when it occurs, the 47th Medical Group is ready to do its part during the Operational Readiness Inspection."

Apart from setting tremendous goals like all successful leaders do, Colonel Lee also has a philosophy... "Lead, don't mollycoddle!"

"After more than 20 years, a person gets a sixth sense about the quality of the people who work with and for them. I have some incredibly talented and intelligent folks working in the medical group," she said. "My job is to ensure they have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs, then step back and let them do it."

At the change-of-command ceremony, she said whether or not members of the 47th Medical Group ask, she'd provide them top cover, guidance and advice.

"My proudest moments come when I get to see these fine people grow and excel. When they succeed, we all succeed," the colonel said.

Colonel Lee earned her commission after graduating from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in 1981. She earned her master of health administration degree from the Medical College of Virginia.

The colonel wears the Master Medical Service Corps Badge and is a board certified healthcare executive with the American College of Healthcare Executives.

She urged all Airmen to take the Air Force core values to heart and strike a balance between on- and off-duty activities.

"The core values aren't just words; they're words to live by. Always give everything you do your best effort, both on and off duty. Do what's right because it's the right thing to do, not because someone's watching! I've never had to remind people to 'work hard' because it's going to happen," she explained. "But I want people to safely play hard as well. In my opinion, there's not a job in the world worth burning out over. You need to strike a balance between work and off-duty time. I want to make sure my folks are doing just that... unfortunately, it took me most of my career to understand the importance of doing this, but sometimes you just have to schedule 'play time' on your calendar and then stick to it! You're not doing anyone any good yourself, especially by burning yourself out."