Lt. Col. (Dr.) Booker T. King, right, discusses patient care with Capt. Celia Dial July 30. King was appointed USAISR Burn Center Director July 26. Photo by Steven Galvan
By Steven Galvan, Public Affairs Officer
U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research
7 AUGUST 2013
At a very young age, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life—to be a doctor. But never in his wildest dreams did he ever think that he would be in charge of one of the world’s most prominent burn centers. On July 26, Lt. Col. (P) (Dr.) Booker T. King was appointed as the director of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Burn Center at Joint Base San Antonio—Fort Sam Houston.
“I am very happy and proud to take this position,” said King. “It’s a big and complex task.”
King takes the reins of the Burn Center from Col. (Dr.) Evan M. Renz, who was assigned as Brooke Army Medical Center’s Deputy Commander for Acute Care at the San Antonio Military Medical Center.
“Dr. King is a trusted leader, highly skilled surgeon, and compassionate provider who is ideally qualified to serve as Director of the Burn Center,” said Renz. “He has demonstrated his total commitment to his patients and the staff. As a clinical researcher, Dr. King’s work will benefit Soldiers for decades to come.”
The Brooklyn native realized his childhood dream when he attended and graduated from the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education at the City College of New York. Since 1973, the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education has been recruiting minorities into medicine to increase medical services and availability of primary care physicians in historically underserved areas. Through an accelerated 7-year BS-MD program, King became a physician in 1994 after completing his 2-year clinical training at the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine.
“The first 5 years the undergraduate and medical schools are combined followed by 2 years of clinical training,” said King.
After the clinical training, King completed his residency at NYU, where he participated in the Army Medical Command Specialized Training Assistance Program (STRAP), a monthly-stipend program designed for physicians to obligate a year in the Army Reserves for every 6 months they receive the stipend.
In 1999, King transferred from the Reserves to the active-duty ranks as a captain with his first assignment as a general surgeon at the Moncrief Army Community Hospital at Fort Jackson, S.C. From there he transferred to Heidelberg, Germany, to the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital where he deployed to support Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
To become a trauma critical care surgeon, King did a fellowship at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine from 2005 to 2007 before transferring to the Burn Center for duty. In 2008, he was selected as associate director under Renz. Since being assigned to the Burn Center, King has deployed twice—to Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he has great admiration for the prominent directors who have led before him.
“I’m in the shadow of some great leaders: Drs. Pruitt, Holcomb, Blackbourne, and Renz,” he said. “I have great respect for this position and I want to continue the great legacy of those who served before me.”
Two areas that King would like to focus on while serving as the director of the burn center are increasing research for burn care and providing burn care to pediatric patients.
“There’s a need for that [pediatric burn center] in this region,” he said.
What King accomplishes during his tenure at the Burn Center is yet to be seen, but he knows he has the full support of his staff and leadership at the USAISR.
“We selected Dr. King because he was the best choice to lead the only Department of Defense Burn Center,” said USAISR Commander Col. (Dr.) Michael A. Weber. “General Caravalho [USAMRMC Commander, Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Joseph Caravalho Jr.] and I are confident that we have selected the right person with the right expertise to continue providing the best possible burn care to all of our patients.”
King acknowledges that his new job will come with daily multifaceted circumstances, but he’s ready for the challenges that it will bring. When asked to describe himself, King said, “I’m down-to-earth, practical, humble, and religious.”