Career in Medical Command Brought Care, Laughter to Sailors and Soldiers

Capt. Shari Holtzclaw Kirshner ’76 was just looking for some help with graduate school tuition when she joined the military reserves. Some 33 years later, she retired from a career with the U.S. Navy Medical Service Corps.

As commanding officer of the Naval Medical Logistics Command from 2001 to 2005, Shari oversaw distribution of medical supplies to ships, bases and hospitals worldwide.

Shari Kirshner '76 and Lewis Black

Shari Holtzclaw Kirshner ’76 stands with friend and comedian Lewis Black at the USO Gala in 2009.

“Our motto was ‘Suppliers for Life’ and our mission was to get the right medical products to the right place at the right time,” said Shari. “I knew that the patient would not get the services they needed if my staff didn’t do its job.

“The doctors, the nurses, the hospitals depended on us,” said Shari, who was the first African-American woman to be promoted to captain and given command in the Medical Service Corps.

After graduating from Oswego with a communication studies degree, she went on to study health care management at Webster University and earned a special designation in medical logistics from the U.S. Naval School of Health Sciences.

The responsibility of getting medications, lab equipment and basically anything needed to treat servicemen and women of the Navy and Marine Corps was intense, Shari said. But, she also had a hand in distributing some levity abroad.

After meeting soldiers in Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Wounded Warrior Clinic, Shari invited friend and comedian Lewis Black to visit. A regular on Comedy Central’s Daily Show, Black was inspired by the experience to get involved with the United Service Organization and has done performances abroad ever since.

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