UH degree: MPH ’78, MS ’79 in public health, Mānoa
Medals: Defense Superior Service, Legion of Merit and Meritorious Service; Navy and Marine Corps Commendation (3) and Achievement
Challenge: Integrating several multi-billion dollar purchased health care contracts with health care provided in military treatment facilities
Eleanor Valentin is not your typical Navy admiral. A master of the rigorous physical and mental discipline required for a military career, she spent her days as an undergrad donning a University of Washington cheerleading uniform while completing degrees in zoology and psychology before earning two master’s degrees in public health at the University of Hawaiʻi.
Even after four degrees, Valentin craved a new challenge. She found it in the military. The Navy provided her with the opportunity to marry her passion for public health with her dedication to public service, so she joined husband Capt. Dennis Larsen in the service following her graduate studies. She moved quickly up the ranks, making lieutenant junior grade in 1982. She served in posts from Virginia to Japan, including a three-year stint as director for administration at Naval Medical Clinic in Pearl Harbor.
She was executive officer for Naval Hospital Corpus Christi, commanding officer for Naval Hospital/Health Clinic Cherry Point, NC and, most recently, chief of staff for Navy Medicine National Capital Area.
She holds fellow status in the American College of Healthcare Executives and Academy of Healthcare Management.
For the cheerleader–turned–admiral, destroying stereotypes seems to be an MO. While women only won the right to serve on ships 31 years ago and still aren’t allowed to serve in ground combat roles, on submarines or in most special operations forces, Valentin is putting women in the Navy full speed ahead. In 2009 she was promoted to the rank of rear admiral, and in October she became the 16th director of the Medical Service Corps, making her the first female Medical Service Corps officer to obtain the rank of flag officer as well as the first female to serve as Navy Medical Service Corps director.
Reprinted with permission from University of Washington Columns magazine article by Kelly Gilblom.