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Podcast #134 – The Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center

MP3 File (run time 31:45)

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 6.21.47 PMEpisode #134 is a different topic than usual. Instead of strictly talking Lean, today’s discussion is about broader issues of healthcare quality and our United States military. Joining me are Daniel Sullivan, President and General Manager of the The Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center (SSC), a non-profit organization that  is dedicated to improving health outcomes for current and former military personnel, especially those who are suffering from emerging, complicated, or currently unexplained post deployment  health concerns.  Named in honor of a fallen marine,  the Sgt. Sullivan Center promotes the health security of America’s troops and the principle that none should be left behind. Also joining us is Gregory Jacobson, MD, a college friend of Daniel’s and the co-founder and CEO of KaiNexus, also a board member of the Center.

The Sergeant Sullivan Center is named for Daniel’s brother,  Sergeant Thomas Joseph  Sullivan, a veteran of the Iraq war, who died suddenly in his northern Virginia home at age 30, four years after returning from deployment. With his medical problems originating during his deployment in Iraq and continuing in the years following his return home, Sgt. Sullivan suffered a progression of unexplained health complications that included chronic pain, swelling, cardiovascular disease, and severe inflammation. His autopsy revealed life threatening problems that medical tests had not detected.

Today would have been St. Sullivan’s 32nd birthday, so I am sharing his story here.

For a link to this episode, refer people to

More About the  Sergeant Sullivan Center:

For earlier episodes, visit the  main Podcast page, which includes information on how to subscribe via RSS or via Apple iTunes.

You can use the player (use the VCR-type controls) at the top of the post to listen to a streaming version of the podcast (or click here for the streaming audio and RSS subscription). The streaming link is faster for one-time listening (hardly any delay to start listening). Or you can use the download link to put it on your iPod or other MP3 player.

If you have feedback on the podcast, or any questions for me or my guests, you can email me at or you can call and leave a voicemail by calling the “Lean Line” at (817) 776-LEAN (817-776-5326) or contact me via Skype id “mgraban”. Please give your location and your first name. Any comments (email or voicemail) might be used in follow ups to the podcast.

Sgt. Sullivan Center Press Release (12/22/11)


DECEMBER 22, 2011. WASHINGTON, DC.  The Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center (SSC) today announces the launch of a campaign to advance research and education in the field of post deployment health science. The announcement comes as thousands of veterans return home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

A significant number of returning veterans are likely to experience serious deployment-related health problems in the days and years ahead.  The Veterans Administration (VA) data shows alarming rates of debilitating illness  and death  among service members returning from deployment.  In fact,  as of spring of 2011, about 4,200  Iraq and Afghanistan war  veterans had died since their return  from deployment, many within two years of discharge.  Post -deployment deaths are  approaching the  number of combat-related deaths.

“Despite such an alarming health trend, there is no consensus on how to document, explain, prevent, or treat the illnesses that plague returning veterans,” says SSC President Daniel Sullivan.  “As a central advocacy position, the  SSC calls for government, scientists, the military, and industry to work together to find solutions to a problem that,  for some veterans, is truly a matter of life and death.”

To further this end, the SSC has provided financial support which, in part, will assist the organizers of   the February 13, 2012, 1st Annual Scientific Symposium on Lung Health after Deployment to Iraq & Afghanistan at the School of Medicine,   Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook (SUNY). The program is offered as part of SUNY Stony Brook School of Medicine’s Continuing Medical Education for physicians and will enable more informed lung health diagnoses of veterans by participants, who will include government/military and private clinical physicians and researchers.

“SSC support helped make the Lung Health Symposium possible,” says Program Chair Anthony M. Szema, MD. “In turn, the Symposium will provide specialized training to healthcare professionals and improve the delivery of care to veterans, government and nongovernment workers, children and adult citizens of these nations.”

The SSC is named in memory of Sergeant Thomas Joseph  Sullivan, who died suddenly in his northern Virginia home at age 30, four years after returning from service with combat valor in Iraq.  Beginning while deployed and continuing in the years following his return home, Sgt. Sullivan suffered a progression of unexplained  health complications that included chronic  severe  pain and swelling, inflammatory illness,  and cardiovascular,  respiratory and intestinal disease.  His autopsy revealed life threatening problems that medical tests had not detected.

After his death, Sergeant Sullivan’s family learned that other veterans suffer from similar unexplained health problems, but have inadequate information about healthcare options.  The family founded an organization to improve outcomes for veterans who return from deployment with emerging health concerns through research and education.  On Veterans Day 11-11-11 at the organization’s inaugural event, the SSC announced an action plan for 2012 including developing a guide to post-deployment healthcare management.

 “We hope that by educating the public, physicians and veterans about this growing national health crisis that fewer  service members will fall through the cracks in the system, and lives will be saved,” says SSC Board Member Peter Sullivan, Sgt. Sullivan’s father, who will be speaking at the Stony Brook symposium.

Sgt. Sullivan was born on this day in 1978, and the announcement of this campaign is also a bittersweet but hopeful birthday tribute. “Beginning with the death of one marine, the SSC promotes the health security of America’s troops and the principle that none should be left behind,” says Jeanne Sullivan, Sgt. Sullivan’s mother and a founding member of the organization.  More details about the SSC’s 2012 action plan and the  Stony Brook  Symposium are on the agency website at


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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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