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Groundbreaking nurse retires after making inroads for women in the military

Monday December 9, 2013
Lori S. Frank, RN
Lori S. Frank, RN
(Photo courtesy of Lori S. Frank)
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When Lori S. Frank, RN, MSN, embarked on a two-month voyage in 1989, she couldn’t believe she was selected out of more than 150 Navy nurses for this exercise. Just two days later, this 6th generation Texan and Stephen F. Austin State graduate was sailing on a combat aircraft carrier toward Korea. She was the only woman and the first female general duty nurse aboard the USS Carl Vinson. “I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Frank, now a retired U.S. Navy Captain.

It was the first of many remarkable accomplishments for Frank as a pioneer and nurse leader in the U.S. Navy. In 1990, Frank was again outnumbered by men 1 to 1,000 when she became one of the first nurses stationed with the Marines in Okinawa, Japan. She then was assigned to nursing leadership roles in South Korea, followed by Cuba during the Haitian refugee crisis. “I broke a lot of glass ceilings,” Frank said. “Whether I was onboard the carrier, stationed with the marines in Japan or supervising nurses in the military war zone of western Iraq, I showed that women in combat situations could be there, competent and professional.”


Frank continued to develop as a leader when she headed curriculum development at the Naval School of Health Sciences in San Diego and managed clinics in California and Texas. “When we were there together, we worked like a well-oiled machine,” said retired Navy Capt. Laura Omer, RN, BSN, MA, who directed medical services with Frank in Texas. “Thank God for Lori’s great sense of humor to get us through those demanding days.”

In 2002, Frank earned her MSN in nursing administration from UCLA School of Nursing, where she is a distinguished alumna. “She was inquisitive and had a quest for knowledge,” recalled Suzette Cardin, RN, DNSc, FAAN, assistant dean of student affairs at UCLA School of Nursing. “Lori was the first student in nursing administration to fully embrace computer technology. She was not afraid to think outside the box, so to speak, but still follow the military rules.”

Frank went on to hold many nurse executive roles and made significant contributions to advance military training for healthcare professionals using the latest technology and innovative solutions. She partnered with the National Museum of Civil War Medicine to develop a hands-on course in which healthcare leaders tour the Antietam battlefield in Maryland to analyze Civil War medical warfare. “Lori Frank is a visionary,” said former UCLA classmate, Karen R. Buenaventura, RN, PHN, MSN, nurse clinical systems project manager, Kaiser Permanente. “She transforms challenges into opportunities that inspire leadership, creativity and growth.”


In 2006, Frank was deployed as director of ancillary services to a busy level-2 trauma hospital in Al Asad, Iraq. Thousands of military personnel, Iraq nationals and enemy fighters were treated in her eight months there. “I personally had the highest highs and certainly the lowest lows,” Frank said. “I saw some things most nurses never see their entire lifetime.”

In her most recent role, Frank was an executive officer for the Medical Educator and Training Campus in San Antonio, Texas. She helped develop this facility, which streamlines medical training for three military services, and served as the inaugural director for the first class of 5,000 sailors who graduated from Hospital Corps school. “Air Force, Army and Navy all sitting next to each other,” Frank said. “Three services came together to change paradigms, to train together and train differently.”

Frank retired this year after 27 years of military experience. She now is a developmental club manager at a Sam’s Club in San Antonio. When asked if she misses nursing, she said, “The essence of the nursing process is to assess, plan, act on the plan and then evaluate what was done,” Frank said. “That process is invaluable to whatever you do — whether that’s being a Navy nurse or working in retail.”


Daria Waszak, RN, MSN, CEN, COHN-S, is a freelance writer. Post a comment below or email editorSouth@nurse.com.