On Feb. 2, we honored retired Brig. Gen. Guthrie Turner Jr. by memorializing a building after him for his achievements, as a lifelong Soldier and for breaking through barrier after barrier throughout his long career.
It’s no coincidence that we dedicated the building to him during African-American History Month — after all, General Turner was the first African-American to achieve the rank of general officer in the Army Medical Corps and the first African-American to command an Army hospital.
He bookended his Army Medicine career at Madigan Army Medical Center, serving here as an intern as a first lieutenant and returning in the early 1980s to serve as the commanding general of Madigan.
In between, General Turner dealt with a segregated south, earned a master’s degree at Harvard University and served in Vietnam.
Even after he retired from the Army in 1983, he continued to serve by working for the Medical Assistance Administration in the Department of Social and Health Services in Washington state.
General Turner spent 32 years taking care of service members and their families, whether as an internal medicine resident, a division surgeon in Vietnam or the visionary architect of Madigan’s current main hospital.
We’re honored to name our Preventive Medicine building after him, both for his ties to preventive medicine and his exceptional achievements throughout his career.
When he retired from the Army in 1983, preventive medicine had the same overall mission as it does today — a focus of readiness and protecting, promoting and maintaining the health and well-being of individuals and communities and preventing disease, disability and death.
While during General Turner’s time, preventive medicine focused on preventing the spread of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, measles and pneumonia, today the field works more toward preventing or containing emerging threats like Ebola and other global outbreaks.
Army preventive medicine has also expanded over the years to collaborate closely with federal and state agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and state public health agencies to better meet its missions of food, water and workplace safety.
With the memorialization, we hope that staff and patients who use those services will take a moment to notice his plaque and remember the man. Throughout General Turner’s life, he didn’t just break through the color barriers he encountered in his career and elsewhere.
Instead, as his wife, Ella said, he purposely found new barriers to go through — going to airborne training and training as a pilot — to ease the way for African-Americans behind him to join in those experiences.
When service members of all colors and backgrounds enter the Brig. Gen. Guthrie Turner Junior Preventive Medicine Clinical Services Building, they’ll pass by a plaque of General Turner — a constant reminder to all of his lifelong dedication to protect the health of the Army community.
He was and will always remain one of Madigan’s best.