Pediatrician Learned to Lead, Military Offered Opportunities

Pediatrician Bruce Hewett, M.D., did not intend to have a lifetime career in the military. “I just kept kicking the can down the street,” said the retired colonel. “They kept making me bigger and better offers.”

He was the middle of six siblings to go to college and wanted a way to spare his parents the financial burden. He visited an Air Force recruiter and applied for a scholarship.

The next thing he knew, he was in medical school at Colorado University. After that, he had a choice: a civilian or military residency. “I chose military as an opportunity to see the world,” he said.

“When you’re a pediatrician, every day is interesting, a good day to make a difference in someone’s life.”
~Bruce Hewett, M.D.

And so he did. In 1984 he completed a medical student rotation at David Grant Medical Center. This gave him the chance to impress the resident recruiter at Travis Air Force Base, which led to a three-year residency.

Then came four years in Myrtle Beach, S.C. During operations Desert Shield-Desert Storm, he was promoted to chief of medical staff. After the Gulf War, there was a rash of base closures, and Myrtle Beach was shuttered. So Dr. Hewett and his family went to Albuquerque for five years, where he was promoted to a lieutenant colonel. Then it was Anchorage, Alaska, for another five years, and a promotion to colonel. He returned to Travis in 2002 and retired from active military duty on Jan. 1, 2008.

When he started at NorthBay Healthcare’s Center for Primary Care in Vacaville, he thought it would be great to just focus on patients. But within a couple of years, he was tapped for his leadership skills to head the physician quality team. “I feel like I learned a lot of leadership in the military, it gave me opportunities at a younger age than I would have had in the civilian sector,” he said.

Stepping up is part of paying back. So is teaching. It’s not uncommon to see Dr. Hewett being trailed by three or four medical students on any given day. He shares not only his expertise, but his passion for his job.

“I love the large spectrum of work,” said Dr. Hewett. “I can walk into one room and hold a newborn baby and then minutes later visit with an 18-year-old patient in the next exam room. When you’re a pediatrician, every day is interesting, a good day to make a difference in someone’s life.”

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