Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) at Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) held a historic change of command ceremony, Sept. 19, when the command changed hands from Navy to Army leadership.
Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Jeffrey B. Clark assumed command of WRNMMC from Rear Adm. (Dr.) Alton L. Stocks during the ceremony held in front of the iconic Tower on NSAB.
Stocks was the first commander of WRNMMC, the nation’s largest joint military medical center following the integration of the former National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) and Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) in September 2011. It is also the largest academic medical center in the Military Health System (MHS). The rear admiral assumed its command on Sept. 28, 2011. A pediatrician and surface warfare medical officer, Stocks is leaving WRNMMC for an assignment at the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED).
Clark, a family medicine physician, most recently held the Army’s top medical post in Europe as commander of U.S. Army Europe Regional Medical Command and command surgeon of U.S. Army Europe. He is the first Army officer to lead WRNMMC. He has also commanded Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, the largest military medical center outside of the continental United States, from 2011-2012, as well as leading deployments to provide care in Kosovo, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs and director of the TRICARE Management Authority, hosted the ceremony. “Each time I come here and walk through the gates, it’s an honor and a privilege for me,” said DoD’s top health official. “It’s impossible for me to overstate the importance of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Bethesda, and the importance it holds within the Department of Defense, American medicine and with all Americans. The people who work within these walls sustain life, provide hope and offer comfort to individuals and families who are in the greatest need of skilled and professional care.”
Walter Reed Bethesda also serves as a model for the future of military medicine, Woodson continued. “This ceremony, which combines the time-honored traditions of two services, reminds us of what our future looks like—a future that is going to be even more impressive, integrated and joint.” He added WRNMMC is helping to chart the future for the Military Health System, “which will be stronger, better and more relevant.”
The 30th Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, guest speaker at the ceremony, called WRNMMC, “the Nation’s Medical Center,” which requires “committed leaders at the helm.” He added Stocks is such a leader and led WRNMMC “during times of unprecedented transition.”
The CNO saluted Stocks for overseeing the integration of the more than 7,000 staff members from NNMC and WRAMC, “while making sure world-class care continued to be provided here.” He also credited Stocks with “keeping his finger on the pulse as a care giver and leader of a world-class institution” before awarding him the Defense Superior Service Medal.
Stocks said Walter Reed Bethesda “has stood proudly for many years as a center of hope for all those seeking to be healed from the wounds received in battle. The men and women of this medical center are here to receive those warriors and heal them in body, mind and spirit.”
The rear admiral added WRNMMC provides 1.2 million patient visits annually, offering “every medical, surgical, dental and behavioral health specialty known.” In addition, WRNMMC produces the majority of the military’s physicians and allied health professionals while conducting more than 1,000 active medical research protocols. He also credited “the will, determination and dedication” of the WRNMMC staff with meeting the needs of “all who come here seeking healing and hope.”
In assuming command of WRNMMC, Clark commended Stocks for “laying the foundation for the immense change that will occur [in military medicine].” He also praised the rear admiral for his “leadership and outstanding command climate.
“Walter Reed Bethesda brings together the best of military medicine,” Clark continued. He added the Nation’s Medical Center is one team dedicated to the selfless service of patients. “We in military medicine care for our own better than anyone else in the world.
“I am deeply grateful for the honor and privilege to serve with the Walter Reed Bethesda One Team, [and] what we do, indeed, matter,” the brigadier general concluded.