CHASKA, Minn. – It is hard to argue that the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, headquartered in Rochester, Minnesota, is not a National treasure. Serving more than 1.2 million people a year, the clinic has become one of our most trusted national healthcare assets, continually sitting atop U.S. News and World Report’s national hospital rankings.
This, however, is not a story about the hospital. This is a story about another trusted asset, in human form. One of their critical care nurses, who was just commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy less than a month ago, and is already fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.
Ens. John Christian, a native of Freedom, Wisconsin, had been serving as a Navy hospital corpsman (HM) for nearly nine years in the Navy Reserve while working on his bachelor’s and nursing degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Due to a mixture of life experiences and military experience, he was fortunate enough to get a job out of college at the cardiovascular surgery/transplant intensive care unit at the clinic’s Saint Mary’s Hospital, also in Rochester.
“Most of us that started here right out of college had some other life experiences that set us apart to get accepted for the job,” Christian said. “It was made clear during my interview how much Mayo Clinic values having current and former military members on the team.”
As an HM in the Navy, Christian spent the first five years as a platoon corpsman with a Marine Reserve unit at the Navy Operational Support Command (NOSC) Green Bay. In 2015, he served as a behavioral health technician as part of the Navy’s Warrior Transition Program in Sembach, Germany.
His ascension to officer was one that he had been working toward for years while in the reserves.
“Ever since I attended boot camp and corps school, I have been intrigued by the idea of one day becoming a naval officer,” Christian said. “It has been a strenuous process. I had to go back through MEPS (Military Entrance and Processing Station) as if I was joining again for the first time, and I was turned down by the commissioning board in June 2019 due to lack of critical care experience.”
Cmdr. Greg Cady, assigned to Navy Talent Acquisition Group (NTAG) Northern Plains at the time, was with Christian along the way and helped him with submitting all of his paperwork.
“Despite being disappointed, both of us anticipated the board preferred applicants to have at least one year of critical care RN experience, which he did not,” said Cady. “Within five minutes of our conversation, HM1 (Christian) asked with determination, ‘What do I need to do for the next board?’”
After working at the Mayo Clinic for almost a year and half, Christian gave it another shot and was accepted. His commissioning was a bit unorthodox, though, due to current world affairs.
“I reapplied in January 2020, and I just received my commission in March,” he said. “Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I was unable to have a traditional commissioning ceremony. I received my commission oath in the mail, and I was sworn in by a senior officer over the phone while my father pinned my rank on me at home,” he said.
Cady was his commissioning officer.
“From HM1, to Ensign to serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic within a period of one month, Ens. Christian continues to go above and beyond the call of duty,” Cady said.
Christian, now assigned to Expeditionary Medical Facility Great Lakes, is currently supporting the COVID-19 mission at the Defense Department-run alternate care facility at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.
“We can see what the direct impact of what we’re doing with every patient we treat, and I can imagine no more true and effective way to be of service to my country and fellow man,” said Christian. “This is something we can look back at in the future and be proud to have been a part of.”
NTAG Northern Plains is responsible for enlisted and officer recruiting, covering 393,000 square miles, in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and parts of Illinois and Wisconsin.