Season 3 Episode 103: The Power of Humility in the Military Transition with Dr. Bernard Toney

To launch the 3rd season of the Lessons Learned for Vets podcast, we welcome Dr. Bernard Toney. Dr. Toney’s impressive US Army career includes serving 3+ years as a White House Medical Officer, where he provided medical care to the Vice President and First Lady. A month after his retirement, he began a role as an Advanced Practice Provider / Associate Investigator for the National Institutes of Health. He is also Board Vice Chair for Stepping Stones for Global Development, an organization that provides health and education resources in resource-scarce communities.

Dr. Toney grew up in Atlanta, Georgia in a socio-disadvantaged household. He was surrounded by violence, substance abuse and crime. With no clear prospects for his future, it was by default that he answered the call of a US Army recruiter. At age 17, before he left for bootcamp, Dr. Toney was a victim of a drive-by shooting. His best friend was riding passenger in the car he was driving and died in his arms. This life-changing event was the catalyst for his career in the medical field.

With his impeccable career and solid credentials, you may not believe that Dr. Toney needed to be proactive about his transition and next career after the military. During his military service, he recognized that many servicemembers didn’t know when and how to get off the train, so to speak. He and his wife started planning his retirement and transition three years prior. He believes that time was critical in not only taking advantage of the various resources the military and other organizations provided but also to mentally prepare for life after the military. To quote one of our previous podcast guests, Herb Thompson, “God willing, every one who joins the military will transition someday.”

Dr. Toney attributes his success in the military and beyond to humility with an open mind. He reflects on the steep learning curve he experienced to eventually become a medical officer in the White House. As a young soldier, his insecurities hindered his initial growth, but he expresses gratitude to the many leaders who made him do things he found uncomfortable to help him gain confidence. He consistently had leaders who invested in his career. Dr. Toney recognized from an early age that he would need to rely on other people to help him learn, grow and become a more well-rounded person. 

As Dr. Toney thought about his next career after the military, the most logical path would have been executive medicine – providing care to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. During his time working for 2 administrations, he traveled the world and noticed the inequity when evaluating health systems. Realizing it was time to give back in new ways, he made the decision to retire. Today, Dr. Toney provides medical guidance for Stepping Stones for Global Development and works with other professionals across different disciplines and geographic boundaries to make positive impacts in the lives of others around the world through health and education endeavors.

Dr. Toney believes we can all be a testimony to other people. Sharing our struggles and our resilience normalizes hardship and provides strength for others.

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You can connect with Dr. Toney on LinkedIn at

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