Press Release

American Hospital Association Honors Two Federal Health Care Leaders

The American Hospital Association (AHA) presented two federal hospital leaders with awards recognizing their outstanding service to the health care field. These awards recognize uniformed and non-uniformed federal health care leaders who have distinguished themselves through singularly significant or innovative achievements and leadership that have contributed substantially to the mission of the federal health system. The presentation took place at the recent AHA Leadership Summit in San Diego.


“We are pleased to honor Col. John Cotton and Lt. Col. Brian Neese. They both serve as great teachers, leading by example, sharing what they’ve learned, and continuing to innovate to help improve patient care wherever it is delivered,” said Rick Pollack, AHA president and CEO. “Our federal hospitals are an amazing national resource, as are the people they care for. The exceptional women and men staffing these facilities exemplify dedication to patient care and service to our country.”


Award for Excellence – Col. John Joseph Cotton, MD, MPH, Command Surgeon, Offutt Air Force Base, Omaha.


While serving as Deputy Commander of the Air Force’s 18th Medical Group at Kadena Air Base in Japan, Col. Cotton’s leadership and expertise were instrumental in coordinating the work of the various health care agencies serving military forces on the island of Okinawa. Through his guidance, a tri-service team comprised of health care executives from all the military treatment facilities on Okinawa worked together to improve patient safety, medical operations and readiness. As a result, emergency room visits decreased by 25 percent during holidays and down days. His efforts led to the first-ever joint emergency management operations across the island, significantly improving cooperation between Air Force, Navy and Army emergency management experts and enhancing readiness for contingency and disaster response. Col. Cotton guided the creation of an air-quality awareness platform to warn over 50,000 TRICARE beneficiaries living on Okinawa when Aeolian Dust levels become dangerous to people with lung conditions. (TRICARE is the health care program for uniformed service members and their families across the globe.) This platform was adopted by the United States Forces in Japan as a model for the entire region.


Special Achievement Award – Lt. Col. Brian Harrison Neese, MD, MPH, Global Health Liaison, United States Air Force International Affairs Division, Pentagon.


Prior to his current duty, Lt Col Neese served as Commander of the Air Force’s 628th Medical Operations Squadron in Charleston, S.C. While there, Lt. Col Neese took an innovative, thoughtful, collaborative approach to care. He developed a “university” program for his technicians, comprised of weekly provider-led classes to provide vital training. Under his guidance, his Physical Therapy unit implemented a direct-access model that cut wait times by 14 days, saved $800,000 a year and ranked No. 1 in the Air Force in executing its projected business plan. Dr. Neese’s alcohol prevention team helped reduce active duty alcohol-related incidents by 75 percent. His Mental Health team was recognized with the rarely given “exceptional performers” designation. Dr. Neese’s unit was recognized as Air Mobility Command’s (AMC) Best Air Force Medical Home, and his group won AMC Clinic of the Year in 2015 and 2016. His innovative approach to health care delivery led to an increase in patient satisfaction – a three-year high of 96.5 percent – even through a period of staffing shortages.


Today’s two outstanding federal health care leader award recipients embody a constant pursuit of excellence and we honor them for their exceptional service.

About the AHA

The AHA is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the health improvement of their communities. The AHA is the national advocate for its members, which include nearly 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, networks, other providers of care and 43,000 individual members. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends. For more information, visit the AHA website at

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