Edmund “Ned” Clark, MD ’04
Psychiatrist Edmund “Ned” Clark, MD ’04, met his future wife, Lakshmi Gopal, MD ’03, during his third year at the UF College of Medicine. After becoming engaged, the couple waited four years to walk down the aisle.
“We wanted to wait until we were geographically located in the same place,” Clark said.
That time came in 2006 when Gopal accepted a gastroenterology fellowship at the University of Maryland’s National Institutes of Health campus, which was located across the street from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where Clark was in his second year of psychiatry residency.
While the couple married during their time in Bethesda, they weren’t located in the same place geographically for long.
Before medical school, Clark completed an endocrinology graduate school program in Colorado, but realized he wanted to take a different path. He joined the Peace Corps to “do something different,” and spent two years serving in Kenya, where he discovered a love of medicine. He took the MCAT in Nairobi, and eventually interviewed at the UF College of Medicine.
Clark qualified for the U.S. Navy Health Professions Scholarship Program, and once UF offered him a place in the class of 2004, he quickly accepted.
“It was the best school available. As soon as I interviewed at UF on a Friday, the following Monday they called and offered me a spot,” Clark said. “Eventually I met my wife, so it worked out really well.”
After medical school, however, Clark owed eight years of service to the Navy in exchange for his education.
During his four-year residency at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Clark saw patients from all branches of the military. He became one of the program’s chief residents while working in a “central hub for people coming back from the war in Iraq,” he said. “I treated patients with traumatic brain injuries and (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from all different branches.”
“I can remember some of the most difficult rotations were in the ICU with guys who had received very significant head wounds, and I was dealing with the families,” he added.
On graduating from residency, Clark transferred to Pensacola, but within a week had deployment orders for Iraq. He immediately started combat skills training at Fort Dix in New Jersey.
“It was a month of learning things no psychiatrist should be expecting to be doing in Iraq. You would know things had gotten pretty bad if it’s me behind the machine gun in up-armored Humvee,” he said with a laugh.
Luckily, he said, his skills with a 50-caliber machine gun were never required.
Clark served for seven months at Liberty Combat Stress Control in Iraq in support of an Army deployment.
“Iraq was unique in itself. I had to take care of guys as they were being exposed to extraordinarily challenging events,” Clark said. “We’d take care of guys having acute reactions to combat stressors. But often, they were also having to deal with distant stressors back home over which they had little control.”
After returning from Iraq, Clark worked at Naval Hospital Pensacola before being deployed again. In 2010, he left for seven months to manage the mental health needs of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention camps in Cuba.
“We provided safe, humane, legal and transparent care for the detainees,” Clark said. “After a concerning history of events at Abu Ghraib, our job was to demonstrate to ourselves and the world that we could provide the best possible medical care to enemy combatants.”
Soon after Cuba, Clark hung up his boots and donned civilian clothes, but made the transition by taking a federal physician position at the Naval Hospital in Pensacola, treating many of the same patients he had treated as a Naval officer.
“It was a good transition,” he said. “I wasn’t in a position to do 20 years in the military. I needed to be able to settle down.”
Clark and his wife now have a 14-month-old daughter, Leela, and Gopal is pregnant with the couple’s second child.
While his days in the military are over, Clark called his experience “an adventure unlike any other.”
“People are always trying to thank me for my service, but, in my opinion, it was an honor to serve,” Clark said. “It’s not something you intend people to thank you for. Instead, it’s something for which I have to be personally thankful.”