PM&R Has Its First Army General
Ronald T. Stephens, MD, a respected member of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPM&R) for more than 20 years, reached a milestone achieved by no other physiatrist: he is the first PM&R physician to be promoted to the rank of brigadier general (BG) in any service within the Department of Defense.
As a former Commander of Womack Army Medical Center at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, BG Stephens returned to this historic military post to officially be promoted by Lieutenant General (LTG) Stephen Townsend, the Commander of Fort Bragg and the 18th Airborne Corps.
LTG Townsend commented on Stephens’ stellar military career and said that promotion to brigadier general “is a very incredible feat.” He praised Stephens as one of Army medicine’s best and predicted this promotion would not be the last of his career. “It takes a series of miracles to make brigadier—and others very rarely make the grade,” said Townsend.
The newly minted General expressed his deep gratitude to the Army and to all those participating in his promotion, including his family and 7 children. His wife Debbie and his mother Janelle placed the new stars on his shoulder boards. Daughters, Natalie, Madelyn, Caroline and Lydia presented a new beret, general officer belt and shirt epaulets. His son Todd, a Coast Guard Lieutenant, administered the oath and gave his father his first salute. Two other sons, Jay and Will, gave their father a one star general officer flag and plate for his official vehicle.
During his remarks, BG Stephens recounted that he belonged to one of his 3 families: “the family I was born into, the family I was sworn into, and the family I was vowed into.”
BG Stephens began his patriotic service as a private/infantryman in the Georgia Army National Guard, while a senior in High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree (Magna Cum Laude) in chemistry from North Georgia College and graduated as a Distinguished Military Graduate. He attended the Medical College of Georgia under the Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program, graduating in 1990. After a Transitional Internship at Eisenhower Army Medical Center, he spent a year at Fort McClellan, Alabama as a general medical officer, prior to entering the physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) residency program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he graduated with honors.
Upon completing his residency, BG Stephens served as the Chief of PM&R, then Chief of the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, while also supporting the 18th Field Artillery Brigade (Airborne). He was selected for the Command and General Staff Officer’s Course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and upon graduation selected to be the Division Surgeon for the 25th Infantry Division (Light) at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. While assigned in Hawaii, he deployed as the Task Force Eagle Surgeon in support of Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
He subsequently served in numerous positions around the globe, including: Deputy Commander for Clinical Services (DCCS) Ireland Army Community Hospital, Fort Knox, Kentucky; Commander of the U.S. Army Health Clinic, Camp Zama, Japan.; Command Surgeon for the National Defense University at Fort McNair, Washington, D.C.; Commander of Bassett Army Community Hospital, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; on the staff of the Secretary of the Army at the Pentagon in Washington D.C.; and, Command Surgeon for the 18th Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In addition, BG Stephens has deployed into combat zones multiple times during his career, first as the squadron surgeon for the 1/167 Cavalry in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and later in 2010 as the DCCS for the 86th Combat Support Hospital in support of Operation New Dawn. After 6 months in theater, he assumed the role of U.S. Forces-Iraq Command Surgeon until December 2011.
Despite his demanding military responsibilities, BG Stephens has maintained his board certification in PM&R, served as the Consultant to the Army Surgeon General for PM&R, and is a licensed acupuncturist. He has received numerous awards and decorations including the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, the Expert Field Medical Badge, the Parachutist Badge, the Air Assault Badge, and the Airborne wings of the French and German Armies. He is also a member of the Order of Military Medical Merit, the Honorable Order of St. Barbara, and is a Kentucky Colonel.
BG Stephens currently serves as the Deputy Commanding General for Regional Health Command-Pacific at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, but maintains close ties to the PM&R community as a trusted colleague, mentor and friend.