Dr. Mark Stewart, ORA Orthopedics, shares the story of his military service in the Navy and the joys of practicing medicine in the Quad Cities.
Meet ORA Orthopedics Surgeon: Dr. Mark Stewart
Hometown: Caledonia, New York
Years in Practice: 17 years
Branch of Military Service: U.S. Navy
Why did you decide to join the Navy?
When I was graduating high school, I didn’t have a strong sense of direction or purpose. I grew up in a rural farming community.
There were 60 of us in my class. Most went to college or jobs, but I had a desire to see the world.
The Navy offered that opportunity for adventure and education. So two weeks after graduation, I was sent to boot camp and I was off to see the world!
How did you serve?
Initially I was supposed to be a fire control technician — they are the ones who work on the radar and computer systems for missiles.
I went through an electronics program but hated it, as I’m more of a people person.
I was then sent to Jacksonville, Florida, and was stationed on the frigate USS Voge (FF-1047) and served in the deck division. We were the guys who painted the ship, cleaned the berthing areas and did the cruddy jobs.
After a year on ship, I requested and was sent to hospital corpsman school at Great Lakes. After that schooling, I was stationed at recruit training command Great Lakes where I spent the last two years of my enlistment.
After I was out for about 9 months, I missed the camaraderie of my fellow sailors and enlisted in the reserves.
I was assigned to 2nd Battalion 24th Marines weapons company. I loved being with the Marines.
We trained at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, as well as 29 Palms in California.
Once medical school came along, I left the reserves, but the call to serve was still there. Once I started my orthopedic residency, I knew I had to be a part of the Navy again.
So I joined the Medical Corps as an orthopedic surgeon and was given the rank of lieutenant.
When I started my practice in northern New York, I was stationed with a drill unit at Fort Drum in Watertown, NY. I drilled there until we moved to Moline, and I was discharged as a lieutenant commander.
Were you ever deployed overseas?
While serving on the USS Voge, we deployed first to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for battle drill training. Next we went to the Mediterranean Sea. It was a great time. I was 19, not married, and could spend every dollar I made and still had a place to sleep and eat. I was able to see Spain, France, and Italy.
Describe your most memorable or proudest experience or moment in the service.
My proudest moment or experience is that I was able to serve alongside some of the finest warriors there are. I am so proud of my fellow servicemen and servicewomen and I hold a special place for the world’s finest Navy.
What happened following your service?
I was married to my wife, Angela, just after my first enlistment in the reserves. We have three boys and live in Moline.
As a retired veteran, do you remain connected to the military?
I do have a special connection to the military. I consider it a privilege to treat our military and their families. Also, our middle son is already signed up to go into the Navy once he graduates from Moline Senior High School next year.
I believe I have a certain perspective for the military and their families. I wasn’t married while on active duty, but having been both enlisted and an officer, I feel I have a great appreciation for what they do.
What made you decide to choose to be an orthopedic surgeon?
I decided to pursue orthopedics while on active duty at Great Lakes.
I was given the chance to be a cast tech in the orthopedic clinic. I liked doing this and after talking to the doctors, was encouraged to become one myself. I like that we could get people back to a healthy lifestyle that allowed them more activity.
What inspires you most about your patients?
I’m inspired by the hope we give to people and how they use it. For me, it’s about patients returning to work, a sport, or getting rid of that leg or shoulder pain.
What piece of advice do you wish your patients would take to heart?
Be active, because if you rest … you rust!