The leader of the nation’s top military hospital made a stop at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine on Oct. 2 to share his medical and leadership philosophy with about 70 medical students.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Clark, a 1984 ECU medical graduate and director of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, addressed a mix of first- through fourth-year medical students while in Greenville for the 30th reunion of his medical school class.
Clark, who is board-certified in family medicine, told the room of future physicians that two keys to success in the medical profession are compassion and teamwork. He said the motto he embraces was handed to him from Maj. Gen. Nadja West, his superior at his former station, Europe Regional Medical Command in Heidelberg, Germany: “Every patient is unique, precious and unrepeatable, and should be treated that way.”
“You have to focus on the present, be fully in the moment, during every encounter with every patient every time,” Clark said.
“And as doctors, we can’t just walk into a patient’s room, write orders and walk out,” he said. “We need input from the nurse who’s at the patient’s bedside. 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.”
The LaGrange native, who assumed command of Walter Reed in September 2013, recounted his journey from being an “eastern North Carolina redneck” to becoming the leader of “the President’s hospital,” including the three attempts it took to get into medical school at ECU.
“Challenge is good for the soul,” Clark said. “In fact, I’m impatient with initiatives. Sometimes we don’t need another subcommittee. We need to stop sitting around admiring the problems and go do something about them.”
Clark has spent 30 years in the Army since attending Davidson College on an Army ROTC scholarship. He also attended medical school on an Army scholarship with a promise to serve seven years as a military physician.
Clark’s wife, Sue, is a 1980 ECU College of Nursing graduate.