Biographies of the Superintendents
Colonel Mildred I. Clark
12th Chief, Army Nurse Corps
© Mary T. Sarnecky
Mildred Irene Clark, the youngest daughter of five children, was born on 30 January 1915 in Elkton, North Carolina. Her mother was Martha Darling Clark and her father, William James Clark, was a farmer and Methodist minister. After receiving her diploma from Baker Sanatorium Training School for Nurses in Lumberton, North Carolina, in 1936, Clark attended two six-month postgraduate courses. The first was a curriculum in pediatrics offered by the Babies Hospital in Wrightsville Sound, North Carolina. The second program at the Jewish Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, prepared specialists in operating room administration and technique. Elizabeth Pearson, an instructor in Clark's training school, initially sparked her student's interest in the Army Nurse Corps. Pearson had served in the Corps in World War I and proudly demonstrated her status in the American Red Cross First Reserve after the war by always wearing her Red Cross pin. This mentor instilled in Clark the idea of patriotic service. Knowing that competition among applicants for the Army Nurse Corps was formidable, the determined Clark submitted her request for active duty one year in advance while still a student in the postgraduate course. Surprisingly, within fourteen days Clark received a request to report to Walter Reed General Hospital for a physical examination. Clark's application undoubtedly reflected her genuine love of country and convinced the gatekeepers that she was a prime candidate for the Army Nurse Corps. After completing her course work, Clark was ready to become an Army nurse. Her parents opposed Clark's plan. They were reluctant to allow their daughter to be exposed to the rigors of nursing in what they perceived to be a rough and ready military environment. However, Clark rarely was diverted from achieving a goal. She requested an initial assignment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, hoping the close proximity to her home would allow her parents to visit and thus allay their fears. Her ploy was successful.
Clark's characteristic diligence and enthusiasm soon marked her for greater challenges far in advance of her peers. Just six months after signing in at Fort Bragg, the chief nurse queried Clark as to her interest in attending an anesthesia course at Jewish Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Clark seized the opportunity. Two assignments as an anesthetist at the station hospital at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and the general hospital at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii followed. It was during her stint at Schofield Barracks that the Japanese bombed the installation and adjacent Wheeler Field and Clark again demonstrated her mettle. In 1943, Clark began her administrative career variously assuming responsibilities as assistant chief nurse and principal chief nurse at Ashburn General Hospital, McKinney, Texas; Brooke General Hospital, Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Cushing General Hospital, Massachusetts; Halloran General Hospital, New York; Station Hospital, Camp Stoneman, California; and the 382d Station Hospital, in Korea. In 1947, she became the Director of Nurses of the XXIV Corps in Korea and less than a year later, Chief Nurse of the Far East Command in Tokyo, Japan. Late in 1950, Clark was among the five Army nurses who attended the first Medical Officers' Advanced Course at the Medical Field Service School (MFSS), Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Her follow-on assignment as Assistant Chief Nurse at Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver, Colorado lasted for only three months after which she matriculated at the University of Minnesota and earned a bachelor's degree in nursing education. While a student there, Clark fell ill with an undiagnosed viral condition that involved some leg paralysis. This ailment lingered and occasionally hampered Clark's activity. She accepted an assignment at the Nursing Branch of MFSS in hot, humid San Antonio, Texas after graduating with her degree. However, her tour there was curtailed after seven months due to an exacerbation of her malady. A cooler, drier climate was indicated and Clark transferred to Sandia, Base, New Mexico where she served as chief nurse. One of her most lengthy and significant assignments followed as Procurement Officer in the Surgeon General's Office beginning in September 1955. In this role, Clark faced enormous recruiting difficulties in the midst of an enduring nation-wide nursing shortage. Her creativity and sense of industry furnished an answer to the recruitment quandary in the form of the Army Student Nurse Program.1 Clark conceptualized and developed a myriad of other vehicles to enhance the drive to recruit bright, young men and women for the Army Nurse Corps. Among these projects were radio scripts, film productions, television appearances, lectures, brochures, and articles in the professional and lay literature.2 Clark also wrote "The Prayer of an Army Nurse" which enjoyed a wide dissemination and served as an inspirational public relations tool. A musician set the words of the prayer to music and the United States Army Band performed the composition. Clark served as the de facto author of Mary M. Roberts' book The Army Nurse Corps--Yesterday and Today3 when the 83 year old Roberts could not complete the project.4 A brief assignment as chief nurse of the 6th U.S. Army at the Presidio of San Francisco, California followed in 1961. In September 1963, a board of officers designated Clark as the next chief of the Corps to replace the retiring Colonel Margaret Harper.5
Clark served as chief from 1963 until 1967. Following her retirement in 1967, she married another retired officer, Colonel Ernest Woodman, and settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan.6 Until her death on 25 November 1994, Clark continued her activism and interest in the Army Nurse Corps, veterans' issues, and organizational concerns of professional nursing. She was buried in the Nurses' Section in Arlington National Cemetery. On 27 July 1999, Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, dedicated a 57,000 square foot health care facility, the Clark Health Clinic, the first building to be named in honor of a woman at that installation.7