FALLS CHURCH, Virginia –
Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place became the third director of the Defense Health Agency Sept. 4 in a ceremony at Defense Health Headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia.
He succeeds Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, who is retiring after 36 years of service and has been the DHA director since 2015.
Tom McCaffery, the assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, who served as host of the ceremony, said it's been an honor to work with Bono. He thanked her, saying military medicine is "better off for your decision to dedicate yourself to public service. Congratulations on a remarkable career."
He said Bono led the DHA during "some of the most profound and far-reaching changes” in the history of military medicine.
Bono became the DHA director in late 2015, two years after the DHA was formally established on Oct. 1, 2013. During her four-year tenure, the DHA launched MHS GENESIS, the Department of Defense’s single integrated inpatient and outpatient electronic health record; consolidated TRICARE Health Plan programs from three to two; and most notably began the process of transitioning nearly 450 military hospitals and clinics from the individual Services to the DHA.
McCaffery said he has confidence in Place, who's "no stranger to the changes underway" in transforming military medicine.
Place led the Military Health System’s National Defense Authorization Act 2017 Program Management Office, which oversaw the review of some of the most sweeping organizational changes in military medicine in decades.
In the past two years, Place has served in DHA leadership roles. He led the National Capital Region Medical Directorate and later the transitional Intermediate Management Organization that oversaw the transition of the first set of military hospitals and clinics to the DHA. Earlier in 2019, he became DHA’s interim assistant director for health care administration, a key position that will eventually have oversight over all military hospitals and clinics.
McCaffery said that in Place, the DHA team can expect a leader of intelligence, integrity, dedication, and character.
As Bono summed up her remarks, she said serving alongside "this incredible team at the DHA" has been the highlight of her 36-year career. "Thank you for one of the best – no, the best job I've had," Bono said.
Bono also thanked the MHS team for serving beneficiaries at home and on the battlefield, and for embracing the changes that will lead to a successful future. She said she "couldn't be more excited that it's Ron who's the new DHA director," noting how intimately he has been involved in transformation efforts.
"It's true that change is a team effort," Bono said, adding that teams need effective leaders such as Place.
Place echoed the sentiment, noting that leadership doesn’t take place in a vacuum. He said he is confident the DHA and MHS will continue an effective transformation, with a focus on readiness and patient-centered outcomes, while emphasizing the need to continue to embrace change.
Place said military forces must be fit to fight and ready to win. “Coming in second in what we do doesn’t count.”
Place is board-certified in general as well as colorectal surgery. He's also the author of more than 40 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. His combat surgical experience includes deployments with forward surgical teams to Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Place's numerous awards include the Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster; Legion of Merit with three oak leaf clusters; and combat action, combat medic, and flight surgeon badges.