Serving with Heart: In Honor of Captain Anita C. Bacher, U.S. Navy

Anita Bacher in Navy uniform.

Anita Bacher decided to join the Navy Reserves in 1994.

Published November 11, 2019

This Veterans Day, we honor nurse and Navy Veteran Captain Anita C. Bacher, University at Buffalo School of Nursing baccalaureate class of 1986 and master’s in nursing administration class of 1992. This is just a brief view into her many years of service.

Serving to Learn

“We venture forth valiantly in an effort to make this land, and that of our friends and the less fortunate, a better place. I hope that at least I can help.”
Captain Anita Bacher, DNP, MS '92, BS '86
United States Navy

Captain Anita Bacher began her nursing career on the cardiac intensive care unit at Millard Fillmore Hospital. Guided by her desire to serve the country and her recognition of the educational and experiential benefits of service, she decided to join the Navy Reserves in 1994, sharing her diverse skills with our military.

Capt. Bacher was a master’s-educated certified critical care nurse, but she was also a teacher, an emergency medical technician, an award-winning amateur photographer and a pilot, having flown her first solo flight in a single engine aircraft just months before joining the Navy.

The daughter of a WWII veteran, Capt. Bacher’s induction ceremony into the Naval Reserves took place in Buffalo in 1995. Her family, particularly her father, was so very proud of her decision to serve – much in the same way that Capt. Bacher was proud of her father’s service.

Her military career began soon after as a direct commission, where she first served as a staff nurse at Bethesda Naval Hospital, then as a training officer for the Surgical Company Bravo, 4th Medical Battalion.

She quickly advanced in her career, serving in many other roles that include Commanding Officer of the Alpha Surgical Company, 4th Medical Battalion; Public Health Officer for the U.S. Joint Forces Command; Marine Logistics Group Surgeon; and Senior Nurse Executive and Executive Officer at Camp Lejeune Operational Health Support Unit.

Soldiers in uniform.

Capt. Bacher was stationed in Alaska for Operation Arctic Care.

Capt. Bacher answered the call to service in several commendable assignments throughout her career. In March 2003, she was mobilized with the I Marine Expeditionary Force, 1st Medical Battalion, Echo Company, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Bacher and James Mattis.

Capt. Bacher speaking with General James Mattis at a military event.

After Hurricane Katrina, Capt. Bacher was deployed to New Orleans in the role of medical planner and was a Marine Air Ground Task Force Katrina Staff member aboard the USS Shreveport.

She was also the Medical Assistant Officer in Charge for Operation Arctic Care 2005 in Alaska, a major medical/dental readiness training exercise that involves moving U.S. military and native health personnel and equipment to remote locations during severe conditions such as heavy snow, rain and fog.

Capt. Bacher served Medical Officer-in-Charge for Exercise African Lion in Morocco. African Lion is an annual exercise designed to “improve operability and mutual understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques and procedures.” Training includes peacekeeping operations, intelligence building, aerial refueling, command post, live firing and medical and dental assistance. The United States, Morocco and Tunisia play lead roles, with military personnel from several other countries participating.

Learning to Serve

Bacher family.

Anita Bacher with her mother and brothers Henry, John and Stephen at her DNP commencement ceremony (Johns Hopkins University).

Capt. Bacher’s professional success, both as a nurse and in the military, was fueled by what her brothers, Henry, John and Steven, say was her “ceaseless and never-ending hunger to continue to learn and grow, and to apply that knowledge to help people.”

“Her dedication to this has greatly influenced our entire family, as evidenced by several nieces and nephew pursuing a medical career.”

Her family stresses the value she placed on education and lifelong learning, having also earned a master’s degree in public health, a certificate in refugee care and humanitarian assistance, and a doctor of nursing practice from Johns Hopkins University. 

Anita kissing frog statue.

Kissing the Frog after a successful defense of a doctoral dissertation is a tradition for DNP and PhD candidates at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

Graduates in regalia.

Anita Bacher graduated from Johns Hopkins University's DNP program in 2016.

Capt. Bacher also received a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College in 2003 and subsequently completed the Joint Forces Staff College Joint Medical Executive Skills and Advanced Joint Professional Military Education programs.

This dedication to education was fueled by her strong desire to provide the very best care to her patients and to serve the country at the highest level of her abilities.

Capt. Bacher most recently served as research coordinator for Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where she studied the effects of exercise training in cardiovascular disease and hemodynamics in pulmonary hypertension and ventricular dysfunction. During this time, she also co-authored more than 15 manuscripts.

Her family says, even after being diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer, she maintained her position in the Naval Reserves, in addition to advancing her education, all while participating in clinical trials and working toward improving therapies for cardiac patients as a senior research coordinator.

“Despite her own health struggles, Captain Bacher acted with dignity, treated those around her with respect, and was always quick to offer assurances and bring smiles to the faces of those around her – colleagues and patients alike” (Bacher family, 2018).

A Legacy of Love and Knowledge Generation

Though Captain Bacher passed away in late 2018, her passion for education and advancing science and the profession lives on through the Capt. Anita C. Bacher USN Excellence in Nursing Research Award, which honors Bacher’s dedication as a Naval Officer and her career and research accomplishments. Recipients are military corps officers who have significant contributions to nursing research in the fields of operational medicine, trauma or cardiovascular science.

The inaugural award was presented to Army Lt. Col. Gordon West by the Military Health System Research Symposium in August 2019. Lt. Col. Gordon is a nurse scientist at Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii.

Captain Bacher was also honored as a posthumous recipient of the Legion of Merit in recognition of exceptionally meritorious conduct and outstanding service.

Bacher and friend.

Capt. Bacher with one of her best friends, Capt. Pamela Miller, MD.

In her 1994 statement of purpose for joining the military, Capt. Bacher closed by saying, “We venture forth valiantly in an effort to make this land, and that of our friends and the less fortunate, a better place. I hope that at least I can help.”

Bacher was the heart of many worlds. She not only had a profound impact on our society as a dedicated and passionate nurse, educator, researcher and service member, but was also a beacon of light for her friends and family. Our words cannot do justice to the meaning she held in the lives to those closest to her, so we share their words here:

“No matter her situation, Anita remained an ultimate team player whose loyalty brought a sense of comfort and security to those around her. She was, ostensibly, the center of every team she has ever been a part of, including her family. We simply adored having Anita home for the holidays and will forever cherish the stories told over Baileys Irish Cream (over ice, of course) and red wine (no comment on the amount of Southern Comfort added to the seasonal eggnog).

“There are times when we must drive our cars in the pouring rain. It’s such a peaceful sensation to find respite under a bridge; the noise and chaos just stop for a moment. Then, when you finally get out from under the bridge, everything hits you a little harder than before – the noise becomes ever so slightly more deafening.

"Captain Bacher, you were the bridge to so many, and we will carry your unconditional love and support with us always.”

Thank you to Captain Anita C. Bacher for her unwavering service to our country, to her patients and to the profession of nursing. She did, indeed, help to make this land a better place.

-SARAH GOLDTHRITE

Special thanks to Anita's family -- including brothers Henry, John and Steven -- for the wonderful photos and for allowing us the honor of sharing Anita's story.