(Editor’s notes: March 30 was National Doctors Day. For that occasion, Capt. (Dr.) Betsy Reese from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, provided these comments on why she serves.)
The decision to pursue a career in family medicine was a simple one. I have always appreciated the ability to take care of many aspects of a patient’s medical needs when they are sick or injured, but I also enjoy the challenge of working with patients to focus on healthy lifestyles and preventive medicine. I enjoy being able to care for a variety of patients that exist in the family medicine setting ranging from newborns to the elderly. Being a family medicine provider in the Air Force is a unique experience.
At my home station clinic the focus of my care is addressing preventive health measures, encouraging healthy lifestyles for my patients and maintaining an active duty force that is healthy and ready to deploy. I see patients ranging from current active duty members and their families to retirees and their dependents. I never have a boring day in my clinic, and no two days are ever the same. I enjoy taking care of my patients here at Hill, especially helping patients reach health goals and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Nothing makes a better day than having a patient come in extremely happy after reaching a health goal.
The opportunity to deploy to various locations around the world makes Air Force Medicine unique. I recently had the opportunity to deploy to Southeast Asia where I served as the overnight physician in an urgent care setting. The reality is that as a family medicine doctor, we can deploy to anywhere, which means I have to maintain skill sets in trauma and acute care that some of my civilian colleagues do not. In the deployed setting, my job takes a different turn. My patients are limited to active duty members, and they are not coming in to the clinic because they need an annual well visit or want to talk about health goals, but because they are sick or injured and this is potentially interfering with the mission. Many times I would see patients in the clinic with various musculoskeletal injuries or other complaints, and the medical decision making came down to getting them back to their job in a safe and efficient manner. Unlike home station, if a service member is down for a few days in a deployed location it can have adverse effects on a mission. In the Air Force, the medical field is often labeled as ‘nonners,’ much like other non-flightline side career fields, but in the deployed setting we have a crucial job at maintaining a healthy manpower to maintain mission goals.
I have had some great experiences in my first few years of active duty military medicine. Family medicine is my home and I hope to continue with my training and all the while, taking care of the military members and their families.