Kelly Stuart, MD, was motivated by two key figures in her life to join the military: her dad and husband. As a result, she enjoyed an 11-year career with the U.S. Army Medical Corps. This experience has further strengthened her deep appreciation for those who have served.
Kelly, who is now our Vice President, Ethics, was kind enough to share about her thoughts to help us celebrate Veterans Day on November 11.
When her dad, a Naval aviator, was killed in action in Vietnam in 1971, Kelly’s family kept their ties to the military. Her mom owned a real estate company and in Virginia Beach a big portion of real estate is the Navy.
“We were still very close with the Naval aviation community, my father’s peers,” shares Kelly, who was six years old when her dad died. “They kind of looked after us.”
Her husband Jeb’s family also has deep roots in the military, going all the way back to the American Revolution.
“We both grew up as military dependents,” Kelly says. “We always had a similar understanding of the military family, what that meant, and we actually have very fond memories of it. That was one of the big connections when we first met.”
With her husband serving as an orthopedic surgeon in the Army, Kelly decided to join as well.
“It’s really hard to be a civilian doctor and a military doctor and live together,” says Kelly, who was a neonatologist at the time. “I said, ‘Alright, I’ll join the Army.’ My father inspired me in the military sense, but the deeper picture was that I joined the Army to be with my husband. That’s true love right there.”
As part of their service, the Stuart family lived in Germany for three years with their three young children.
“We traveled all over Europe. My kids have a great foundation about having a scope of the world. They’re not provincial at all and have a respect for other cultures,” Kelly proudly shares.
In 2000, while they were touring Italy, there was a terrorist bombing of the USS Cole when it was refueling in Yemen. The result was 17 killed and 37 injured. All of the wounded soldiers were taken to Germany, so the Stuarts immediately flew back so her husband could operate on them.
Overall, Kelly’s family had a wonderful experience overseas, including her job as a neonatologist.
“I used to fly around on helicopters to cool places, pick up sick babies and bring them back to Germany for care,” says Kelly. “That’s what I did, and I loved it. I never had the bullets whizzing by me, but I did have the pleasure of taking care of the children whose parents were doing that. I think it made them feel better to know they were getting good care.”
When the Stuarts returned state-side, her husband went into private practice in Richmond, VA and completed his service in the Air National Guard. Kelly served two more years in Hampton Roads, VA. Their bonds with the military remain though. Kelly’s husband still sees patients at the VA Hospital in Richmond once a month.
Kelly, who began her work in Ethics with Bon Secours in 2011, still calls upon her military training to this day.
“One thing about the military is it will train you in process,” she shares. “It will train you to approach problems in health care or problems in leadership systematically.”
Kelly also emphasizes that her appreciation of veterans will never wane.
“I grew up without a father because he was killed. It was always a reality to me that it could happen. My mother never remarried. People need to understand the sacrifices, even for the people who lived through it, that are made — the separation from their families, the dangers they encountered, the experiences they can never forget. I’d like to thank all the other veterans for their service.”