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Veteran spotlight: Stephens trains civilian, military emergency responders

Photo of Christopher Stephens in front of an United States flag. (Courtesy photo)
Christopher T. Stephens, MD, FAEMS Associate Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care and Pain Medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. (Courtesy photo)
Photo of Christopher Stephens on an airplane wing. (Courtesy photo)
(Courtesy photo)

We are fortunate to count military veterans and uniformed service members among the many faces of UTHealth Houston. On Veterans Day and every day, we stand united in honor of our students, educators, clinical providers, researchers, and administrative personnel who have served in the military. We do this through our ongoing commitment to promote a diverse, inclusive, and supportive environment at UTHealth Houston and through service to active military personnel and veterans in our community.

Christopher T. Stephens, MD, FAEMS
Associate Professor
Chief, Trauma Anesthesiology
Program Director, Trauma Anesthesiology Fellowship
Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care and Pain Medicine
McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston
MAJ, MC, USARNG 2-149 AVN Flight Surgeon (Active)

What originally interested you in UTHealth Houston?
I grew up in Houston and my first job in the medical field was at Hermann Hospital’s old emergency center in the Robertson Pavillion in 1990, arranged by the late Dr. Red Duke, whom I met through a close family friend. I was an undergraduate student at the time and a certified basic Emergency Medical Technician. As a technician in the emergency center, I followed Dr. Duke around during my college career, learning about traumatology and Life Flight. Through Dr. Duke, I learned all about the UT Medical School and knew that one day I wanted to be on faculty there and follow in his footsteps.”    

What keeps you excited about working at the university?
It’s one of the two busiest trauma centers in the country and I have now worked at both of them. As one of the largest and busiest academic programs in the country, I am proud to call UTHealth Houston my home. It’s also about the people who work here. I just love the people! The university seems to attract a very talented group of folks, both clinical and non-clinical, and I couldn’t be happier with my colleagues and support staff of this great university. As for the faculty, I am fortunate to have learned so much from my colleagues with so many years of experience. The research and academia here are second-to-none and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of its mission.”   

What is your greatest accomplishment so far?
I am blessed to have been put in a position to accelerate both clinically and academically as a physician and scientist, as well as grow professionally as a senior teaching faculty member at UTHealth Houston. As such, I must say that I am most proud of being the founder and program director of our Trauma Anesthesiology Fellowship. When I was hired by our former chair, I was charged with the duty of faculty development in traumatology, in addition to the responsibility of starting a trauma fellowship. I had never started a clinical fellowship, but I went to work. With the close assistance of my colleagues and support staff, I was able to get the fellowship up and running, graduating my first fellow in 2019.” 

What is your favorite thing about your job?
I love the challenge of saving lives in our trauma center. Equally satisfying is educating and training our medical students, residents, fellows, and Life Flight crew-members to do the same. It is such an honor and privilege to be in a position to do this for a living and pass the knowledge and skills on to the next generation of professionals.” 

What is your role in the military, and how does it relate?
I signed up for a direct commission into the military to specifically become a U.S. Army Flight Surgeon. I had some wonderful mentors along the way who served in the armed forces and I always enjoyed training medics, nurses, and physicians who were about to deploy overseas in support of the global war on terror. I decided to take all of my civilian experience and training as a paramedic, traumatologist, helicopter pilot, and flight physician to the military; in order to serve my country and use all of my skills to their fullest potential. As an operational medevac flight surgeon, I am considered a rated Army Aviator. As such, I am charged with all the duties that go along with this position – educating and training the flight paramedics, providing medical direction, aircrew training alongside the pilots and helicopter crew chiefs on various aircraft, providing primary and emergency care to aviation crewmembers during deployments, and performing flight physicals to soldiers on flight status, in addition to ensuring overall unit medical readiness for both stateside and overseas deployments.”       

What has been your greatest adventure so far?
I have had many adventures throughout my career but I must say that the two most memorable were my last deployments both overseas in the Middle East as well as stateside. While overseas, I had the opportunity to fly combat medevac missions, giving me the chance to utilize the skills I learned through years of experience. Upon return from overseas, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, and once again, I was deployed as the officer in charge of search and rescue missions, assisting with helicopter rescues over flooded regions of Southeast Texas. I was so honored to be a member of those extraordinary helicopter crews on each of those deployments and thankful to have had the opportunity to serve in that capacity.” 

What would you like others to know about UTHealth Houston?
UTHealth Houston is one of the most progressive, innovative, and influential universities in the country. We represent almost every specialty in both basic and clinical science. This makes us a world-renowned health science center with scientists, teachers, and physician educators who are among the very best in their respective fields. In addition, being part of the largest medical center in the world, we are an academic referral center that cares for patients from around the globe.”

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