Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

VADM Raquel Bono: The end of a brilliant tenure, the beginning of a new chapter

Vice Admiral Raquel C. Bono Vice Admiral Raquel C. Bono

Recommended Content:

Defense Health Agency

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – Three decades as a pioneer of change in military medicine prepared Navy Vice Adm. Raquel C. Bono to lead the Defense Health Agency.  But few knew just how much change was on the horizon as she became the DHA’s second director in the fall of 2015.

As she prepares to close a 36-year military career and her time at the DHA, Bono reflected on the DHA’s unique role in helping to transform the Military Health System, on the value of diverse voices within the military and medicine, and on balancing a demanding military career with family.

Bono became the DHA director just two years into its existence, and only a few months before Congress enacted historic changes to military medicine through the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. The legislation accelerated many reform trends that that the Department of Defense had already begun, and it handed DHA a series of major tasks, including significant changes to the TRICARE health plan and a consolidation of military hospitals and clinics – traditionally operated by the Army, Navy and Air Force – under the management of a single agency, the DHA.

“Just about every job I’ve had prior to this, every professional and life experience I’ve had prior to becoming DHA director, has somehow prepared me for this job and the particular place in history that the DHA has been in the last four years,” Bono said.

Bono will retire on Tuesday, after handing over the DHA directorship to Army Maj. Gen. Ronald Place, who will be promoted to three-star rank.

Strength in diversity

Bono is the first female Navy medical officer to achieve three-star rank, and as an Asian-American and a female surgeon, she has championed the value of diversity and inclusion – something she learned at an early age from her father, also a surgeon, whom she describes as “the first feminist I ever met.”

As a young girl, Bono would wait up at night for her father to return home from long days as a surgical resident. One night after he got home, she told him that she hoped to become a nurse so she could spend all day with him at the hospital.

“And he said, ‘Well, why don’t you want to be a doctor?’ And I very distinctly remember saying, ‘Well, I didn’t know girls could be doctors.’ And that’s when he told me I could be anything I wanted,” Bono said.

Bono has made it her mission to encourage women and minorities to pursue careers in the military and in medicine because diversity strengthens organizations. “We need to have a much more diverse and inclusive environment for health care and for the workplace and for the military,” she said. “I do believe that we have to have that critical mass of what (are) traditionally under-represented groups … so people can hear that voice and then consider that in the decisions they make.”

Bono also has encouraged those she leads to balance their careers and a family life. Her husband, Art Dwight, a former Marine and later an Army infantry officer, has been a partner in her success, from raising their three daughters to issues as small as learning to spit-polish her shoes. “He’s the one that keeps things real for me,” Bono said. “He’s the one that brings me down to Earth.”

Driving change

Bono has not shied away from using the term “disruption” – one more commonly used at Silicon Valley tech companies – to describe the changes occurring in military medicine, changes DHA and Bono have helped drive.

Disruption “is an accurate description of what I believe needs to happen in health care, and certainly military health care,” she said. “We are at a point where incremental changes will not transform us in the way we need. And the best way of getting to those changes is by being willing to disrupt what is the conventional framework.”

One of the biggest changes for the 9.5 million beneficiaries of the MHS has been a series of reforms to TRICARE. Under Bono’s leadership, the DHA awarded $57 billion contracts to two managed care contractors to operate regional health care networks in the eastern and western United States. When Congress mandated the establishment of TRICARE SelectStarting on January 1, 2018, TRICARE Select replaces TRICARE Standard and Extra. TRICARE Select is a self-managed, preferred provider network plan. TRICARE Select is a fee-for-service option in the United States that allows you to get care from any TRICARE-authorized provider.  Enrollment is required to participate. TRICARE Select after those contracts were awarded, DHA worked with the contractors to implement the contract kickoff and the implementation of Select in the same year.

“I’m excited that we’ve been able to do the things we’ve been able to do with TRICARE,” she said, including the shift of retiree dental plan beneficiaries to FEDVIP, the dental and vision plans Federal employees enjoy.

But Bono’s biggest legacy is likely to have set the stage for DHA’s management of hundreds of military hospitals and clinics around the world. On Oct. 1, just weeks after Bono’s retirement, DHA will assume responsibility for all U.S. military medical facilities.

Bono said consolidating hospital and clinic operations, along with other shared services DHA provides to the entire Military Health System, such as pharmacy, information technology and logistics, are vital if beneficiaries are to continue enjoying a comprehensive health benefit.

“Medical inflation is probably not going to drop. And likewise, I don’t see anybody saying we should change the benefit to offer less services,” she said. “We have to instill the discipline in ourselves to be able to find the savings so that we can take those savings and put them into the benefit for our patients.”

As she prepares to exit, Bono said she has high expectations for the DHA’s future, a future in which the agency drives to the best solution for patients, without regard to divisions along service lines or lines between civilian and military capabilities. She envisions a future DHA having “a collective conversation where there’s a variety of uniforms ... and that the conversations that are happening are (about) what is the best way to ‘fill in the blank,’” she said.

“I would love to be able to see also at that table our partners in the managed care support contractors, our dental partners, our pharmacy partners, and that we’re having a very broad conversation about what is the best way to make sure that our patients get the care that they need and they deserve.”

You also may be interested in...

EBM Provides Patients with Consistent, Effective Care

Article
6/22/2021
Military personnel hosting a training program

Clinical Communities Speaker Series: Evidence-Based Medicine

Recommended Content:

Defense Health Agency | Continuing Education Program Office

ILER Team to Receive 2021 FedHealthIT Innovation Award

Article
6/21/2021
Picture of the earth with shadows of people standing in front of it

The Solution Delivery Division (SDD, J-6) Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record (ILER) team of the Clinical Support Program Management Office was awarded the 2021 FedHealthIT Innovation Award on May 19.

Recommended Content:

Defense Health Agency | Solution Delivery Division | Environmental Exposures | Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry

Newly Promoted Maj. Gen. Shanna Woyak Ready to Lead DHA’s SSO

Article
6/17/2021
Military personnel receiving a promotion

Woyak will take control of the DHA’s Small Market and Stand Alone Military Treatment Facility Organization in the coming weeks, and will be the organization’s first director.

Recommended Content:

Defense Health Agency | Military Health System Transformation | Market Structure | Small Market and Stand Alone MTF Organizations

Connected Health Hosts First DHA Digital Health Virtual Summit

Article
6/16/2021
Graphic about the DHA Digital Health Virtual Summit

The Defense Health Agency Connected Health branch hosted the inaugural DHA Digital Health Virtual Summit that provided insight on the accelerated world of digital health in the Military Health System.

Recommended Content:

Technology | Defense Health Agency

DHA FY21 Campaign Plan

Publication
11/17/2020

This Campaign Plan sets the DHA's four critical priorities for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21).

Recommended Content:

Defense Health Agency

MHS Minute: October 2020

Video
11/3/2020
Image of MHS Minute Carousel

This month we celebrate two important "firsts" at Armed Forces Medical Examiner System, and one very special anniversary at Defense Health Agency! Go to https://www.dvidshub.net/unit/AFMES to see more photos from the only worldwide medical examiner system, AFMES! DHA Celebrates Seven Years of Service: https://health.mil/News/Articles/2020/10/01/Defense-Health-Agency-celebrates-seven-years-of-service

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Medical Examiner System | Defense Health Agency

Defense Health Agency celebrates seven years of service

Article
10/1/2020
Lt. Gen. Ronald Place holding a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery

Seven ways DHA has improved military readiness over the years.

Recommended Content:

Defense Health Agency | Coronavirus | Military Health System Transformation | Technology | Global Health Engagement | TRICARE Health Program | Total Force Fitness

Improvement of Administration of DHA And MTFs

Congressional Testimony
11/21/2019

H.R. 5516, NDAA for FY 2019, Section 711(c) (Defense Health Command)

Recommended Content:

Defense Health Agency | Military Hospitals and Clinics

Third Quarter Report Army Corps of Engineers Projects within the Defense Health Agency

Congressional Testimony
10/4/2019

H.R. 1625 DoD Approps Act FY 2018 Joint Explanatory Statement, Pg. 998

Recommended Content:

Defense Health Agency

A change in leadership for the Defense Health Agency

Article
9/3/2019
Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, the incoming director of the Defense Health Agency, previously served in DHA as director of the National Capital Region Medical Directorate, the transitional Intermediate Management Organization, and the interim assistant director for health care administration. (MHS photo)

Army Lt. Gen. Place installed as third director

Recommended Content:

Defense Health Agency | MHS GENESIS | Military Health System Transformation

VADM Bono: Why Our Mission Matters

Video
8/30/2019
VADM Bono: Why Our Mission Matters

Recommended Content:

Defense Health Agency

VADM Bono:Notable Changes to TRICARE Health Plan

Video
8/30/2019
VADM Bono:Notable Changes to TRICARE Health Plan

Recommended Content:

Defense Health Agency

VADM Bono:Medical Career Development

Video
8/30/2019
VADM Bono:Medical Career Development

Recommended Content:

Defense Health Agency

McCaffery sworn in as new ASDHA

Article
8/29/2019
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Thomas McCaffery was formally sworn into office on August 28, 2019

He will oversee the transfer of management of hundreds of military hospitals and clinics from the Army, Navy and Air Force to the Defense Health Agency

Recommended Content:

Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs | Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs | Defense Health Agency | Military Health System Transformation

DoD to begin next major phase of military hospital consolidation

Article
8/26/2019
Lt. Col. Juli Fung-Hayes (center), a U.S. Army Reserve emergency medicine physician with the 2nd Medical Brigade, leads a medic team from the 396th Combat Support Hospital, headquartered at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, through a trauma and critical care scenario in a field hospital during a promotional photo shoot for Army Reserve marketing and recruiting at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, July 18, 2018. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Congress mandated that a single agency will be responsible for the administration and management of all military hospitals and clinics

Recommended Content:

Military Health System Transformation | Defense Health Agency
<< < 1 2 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 2

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.