ECU alum leads top military hospital
Pictured above, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Clark speaks with service members at Walter Reed Bethesda’s morning formation. Clark, an ECU medical alumnus, took command of the nation’s top military medical center in September. (Photo courtesy of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center)
By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services
An East Carolina University alumnus and eastern North Carolina native is leading the United States’ top military hospital.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Clark, a 1984 ECU medical graduate, is commander of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Clark was promoted to brigadier general during the summer and assumed command of Walter Reed in September. While it boasts an Army and a Navy history, the facility in Bethesda has always been under Navy command. Clark is the first Army officer to lead the facility, known as “the president’s hospital.”
“We in military medicine care for the greatest patients in the world: service members and their families, our retirees and their families,” Clark said. “To be part of Walter Reed Bethesda, ‘the flagship of our military health system’ is a huge honor.”
North Carolina Native
Clark has spent 29 years in the Army. Born in La Grange, he got his start on a military career as a student at North Lenoir High School when he learned about, applied for and received an Army ROTC scholarship to attend Davidson College. After that, he attended medical school on an Army scholarship with a promise to serve seven years as a military physician.
“I was able to get my education paid for fully by the Army,” Clark said recently by telephone from Bethesda. “When I started paying back my seven years, I loved what I did.”
His wife, Sue, is a 1980 ECU nursing graduate. They were introduced by a mutual friend at the old Weiner King near downtown Greenville. They married in 1982 and have three children: Anna serves with the Wounded Warrior Project; Warren teaches English in Istanbul, Turkey; and John graduated from college in May and plans to serve with the Peace Corps.
“Opportunities to live overseas are always wonderful, but it’s always good to be back home,” said Sue Clark, whose mother lives in Southern Pines.
Sue continued to work as a nurse after the couple married until their first child was born. Since then, she’s been a military spouse, mother and volunteer.
“Being a spouse is the hardest job in our military,” Jeffrey Clark said. “There is no greater patriot than the spouse of a U.S. service member.”
Building on an ECU Education
Clark credited his medical education at ECU with preparing him well for his family medicine residency at Silas B. Hays Army Community Hospital at Fort Ord, Calif. He later served as a family physician and flight surgeon in Korea and in numerous roles at Fort Bragg near Fayetteville.
The original Walter Reed, an Army medical center in Silver Spring, Md., was closed in 2011 and its operations consolidated with the Navy’s National Naval Medical Center in nearby Bethesda, Md. The former Navy medical center was renamed the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Before taking over at Walter Reed, Clark commanded Europe Regional Medical Command, Heidelberg, Germany and prior to that commanded Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany. ERMC operates 17 military treatment facilities in Germany, Italy and Belgium.
He has served in Korea, Kosovo, Iraq and in New Orleans during relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina.
Clark has no military history in his family but did have medical influences growing up. His mother was a nurse, and his uncle was a missionary and general surgeon in Korea. Clark visited his uncle while he was a college student. His childhood family physician, Dr John Ward, also inspired him.
A Patient-centered Approach
“You could say I stumbled into my military career,” Clark said. “I wanted to be doctor since childhood. I am blessed to be able to do both.”
The trend in medicine is “patient-centered medical homes.” Military medicine is implementing PCMH for all its services members and families.
“That PCMH concept resonates with all patients, civilian or military,” Clark said. “We take much better care of our patients if the doctor, nurse, medic — all work as one patient-centered team. Add behavioral health, physical therapy and other disciplines to the team, and our patients receive the great care they deserve.”
In addition to his medical and bachelor’s degrees, Clark has degrees from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and Army War College. He has master’s degrees from the University of Washington in public health and the Army War College in strategic studies.
He is board-certified in family medicine.
Clark said he would recommend a military career to any health care professional. “It’s a privilege to be a medical professional and it’s a privilege to serve in the military — each a challenging and rewarding profession. Those of us who serve in uniform get to do both.”