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Jonathan Perlman, founder of Tradition Senior Living in Houston & Dallas, TX.
“A man was dropped off at the ER doors one night, stabbed in the chest; seconds later he becomes unresponsive and loses his pulse. I was the Doc in charge.  This man walks out five days later, and I thought, ‘This is what I’m called to do.’”

Most people would view Dr. Stephen Burgher’s career path as one filled with unbearable pressure. He has served as Chief of Emergency Medicine at the Dallas VA, assistant medical director at a level one trauma center, and chair of emergency preparedness at the local and regional level for various hospital systems—and he completed two volunteer military deployments in the Middle East, filling roughly the same medical role during each tour. The irony is that “Doc Stephen,” as he is called, says he has felt personally drawn to each position. There is joy there.

How did he get to emergency medicine and the military?  “I had been attracted to the military as a young man (my Dad had been in the Air Force), but also to medicine.  After graduating from SMU, I was able eventually to combine the two on a medical scholarship with the Navy,” he said. This was fortunate, because by then, he was married to his wife, Amy, and had responsibilities as a family man.

“After a one-year internship in South Carolina, while serving as a Navy flight surgeon, I was moonlighting in an ER.  A man was dropped off at the ER doors one night stabbed in the chest; seconds later he becomes unresponsive and loses his pulse. I was the Doc in charge.  This man walks out five days later, and I thought, ‘This is what I’m called to do,’” he said.  “It became my passion.”

One would never know talking to the self-effacing Doc Stephen that honors and awards have abounded throughout his career. One stands out:  He was awarded the Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors 1998 Resident Academic Achievement Award, a civilian honor awarded to one emergency medicine resident nationally every year.

After serving 10 years on active duty (the requirement was only three after his Navy scholarship), he returned to Dallas with his family and eventually served for several years at Baylor University Medical Center as the assistant medical director and as the BSW (North) Health Care System chairman for Emergency Preparedness. 

Then came Afghanistan.  “I still had the desire to be in the Navy—I loved the camaraderie.  There was a need, a medical shortage.  My kids were older, in high school or college, but it was still hard on my family,” he said.  “When they needed an ER Doc at Kandahar Airfield, I was willing and went for 10 months.”

Most people would view Dr. Stephen Burgher’s career path as one filled with unbearable pressure. He has served as Chief of Emergency Medicine at the Dallas VA, assistant medical director at a level one trauma center, and chair of emergency preparedness at the local and regional level for various hospital systems—and he completed two volunteer military deployments in the Middle East, filling roughly the same medical role during each tour. The irony is that “Doc Stephen,” as he is called, says he has felt personally drawn to each position. There is joy there.

How did he get to emergency medicine and the military?  “I had been attracted to the military as a young man (my Dad had been in the Air Force), but also to medicine.  After graduating from SMU, I was able eventually to combine the two on a medical scholarship with the Navy,” he said. This was fortunate, because by then, he was married to his wife, Amy, and had responsibilities as a family man.

“After a one-year internship in South Carolina, while serving as a Navy flight surgeon, I was moonlighting in an ER.  A man was dropped off at the ER doors one night stabbed in the chest; seconds later he becomes unresponsive and loses his pulse. I was the Doc in charge.  This man walks out five days later, and I thought, ‘This is what I’m called to do,’” he said.  “It became my passion.”

“A man was dropped off at the ER doors one night, stabbed in the chest; seconds later he becomes unresponsive and loses his pulse. I was the Doc in charge.  This man walks out five days later, and I thought, ‘This is what I’m called to do.’”

One would never know talking to the self-effacing Doc Stephen that honors and awards have abounded throughout his career. One stands out:  He was awarded the Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors 1998 Resident Academic Achievement Award, a civilian honor awarded to one emergency medicine resident nationally every year.

After serving 10 years on active duty (the requirement was only three after his Navy scholarship), he returned to Dallas with his family and eventually served for several years at Baylor University Medical Center as the assistant medical director and as the BSW (North) Health Care System chairman for Emergency Preparedness. 

Then came Afghanistan.  “I still had the desire to be in the Navy—I loved the camaraderie.  There was a need, a medical shortage.  My kids were older, in high school or college, but it was still hard on my family,” he said.  “When they needed an ER Doc at Kandahar Airfield, I was willing and went for 10 months.”

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“When inside the VA, seeing the guys in Korean and Viet Nam caps, or from WWII—it pulled on my heart strings. I guess it still does.”  And then I realized—this very experienced, toughened military / medical man had choked up.

Then came ISIS. “Normally, after serving in Afghanistan, they give you time—the ratio is four years off after one year on.  But the task force surgeon scheduled to deploy had to back out, and my commanding officer asked if I would go back.”  He could have said “No.”  But he didn’t.  The war effort this time was against ISIS, and he went as the task force surgeon—the advisor to the commanding officer of a Marine Corps 2,300-man task force, including 95 medical personnel.  The command was in Kuwait, but there were assets in Iraq, Jordan, and other countries.  “I was to make sure that the medical capability and personnel were correct from the medical standpoint.  We were part of the Marine Corps Component response to ISIS in that region.”  That was another 10 months.

He returned to his role as an emergency physician at Baylor Dallas downtown and had no thought of leaving.  Then the phone rang again, this time with an invitation from the Chief of Staff at the Dallas VA Medical Center to become the head of their ER.  “I went to see them. When you drive up, there is a boulevard of American flags.”  

Our interview was over the phone, and suddenly, I thought we had been cut off.  Then he came back.  “I’m sorry. When inside the VA, seeing the guys in Korean and Viet Nam caps, or from WWII—it pulled on my heart strings. I guess it still does.”  And then I realized—this very experienced, toughened military / medical man had choked up.    

He took the job as Chief of Emergency Medicine at the Dallas VA Medical Center. Today, however, he has an additional, unexpected stress.  He was diagnosed last year with an extremely rare cancer—EMPD.  “I went through an extensive, 10-hour surgery, and the good news is that it hadn’t spread.”  He says, however, that he is still rehabilitating from the surgery.  He is back at work full-time, anyway, now helping Veterans battle a new kind of enemy—COVID-19. 

What has sustained him throughout these various pressures?  “First, any choice that I have made with my family is grounded in the Lord.  Second is family—having Amy, and children Mary Beth (Burgher) Mogk; Stephen, Jr.; Thomas; as well as our parents.  Third, the professional teams around me. In Emergency Medicine, it’s a team approach.”  He then sums it all up in three words: “God, family, country.”  

Easy words to say—only, “Doc Stephen” has lived them.

Linda Faulkner Johnston—Tradition Senior Living 

Then came ISIS. “Normally, after serving in Afghanistan, they give you time—the ratio is four years off after one year on.  But the task force surgeon scheduled to deploy had to back out, and my commanding officer asked if I would go back.”  He could have said “No.”  But he didn’t.  The war effort this time was against ISIS, and he went as the task force surgeon—the advisor to the commanding officer of a Marine Corps 2,300-man task force, including 95 medical personnel.  The command was in Kuwait, but there were assets in Iraq, Jordan, and other countries.  “I was to make sure that the medical capability and personnel were correct from the medical standpoint.  We were part of the Marine Corps Component response to ISIS in that region.”  That was another 10 months.

He returned to his role as an emergency physician at Baylor Dallas downtown and had no thought of leaving.  Then the phone rang again, this time with an invitation from the Chief of Staff at the Dallas VA Medical Center to become the head of their ER.  “I went to see them. When you drive up, there is a boulevard of American flags.”  

Our interview was over the phone, and suddenly, I thought we had been cut off.  Then he came back.  “I’m sorry. When inside the VA, seeing the guys in Korean and Viet Nam caps, or from WWII—it pulled on my heart strings. I guess it still does.”  And then I realized—this very experienced, toughened military / medical man had choked up.    

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He took the job as Chief of Emergency Medicine at the Dallas VA Medical Center. Today, however, he has an additional, unexpected stress.  He was diagnosed last year with an extremely rare cancer—EMPD.  “I went through an extensive, 10-hour surgery, and the good news is that it hadn’t spread.”  He says, however, that he is still rehabilitating from the surgery.  He is back at work full-time, anyway, now helping Veterans battle a new kind of enemy—COVID-19. 

What has sustained him throughout these various pressures?  “First, any choice that I have made with my family is grounded in the Lord.  Second is family—having Amy, and children Mary Beth (Burgher) Mogk; Stephen, Jr.; Thomas; as well as our parents.  Third, the professional teams around me. In Emergency Medicine, it’s a team approach.”  He then sums it all up in three words: “God, family, country.”

Easy words to say—only, “Doc Stephen” has lived them.

Linda Faulkner Johnston—Tradition Senior Living 

“When inside the VA, seeing the guys in Korean and Viet Nam caps, or from WWII—it pulled on my heart strings. I guess it still does.”  And then I realized—this very experienced, toughened military / medical man had choked up.

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