Videos: Today's Military
  • Air Force

    An Air Force Pediatrician(02:26)

    Capt. Ryan McHugh, an Air Force pediatrician, visits with a young patient and his mother at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Air Force pediatricians provide free health care to the children of service members who live on and off base, which is a major benefit of military service.

    McHugh began his training in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. After college, he went on to a civilian medical school, and then he received further training in the Air Force. The Air Force offers financial assistance to aspiring health care professionals, including the Air Force Financial Assistance Program and the Health Professions Scholarship Program.

    To learn more about serving as a physician in the Military, visit Medicine + the Military.

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Capt. Ryan McHugh: My name is Ryan McHugh. I'm a captain in the United States Air Force. I went to medical school at a civilian school, and the Air Force paid for it. You also have the option of going to the military medical school in Bethesda, Md. So there's kind of two different ways.

When you finish medical school, though, you come on Active Duty typically, and then you owe four years of commitment that starts after your residency's done. I'm training to become a flight doc or a flight surgeon is what it's called. It's really about taking care of the flying crewmembers and their families in the Air Force. There's some really specific issues that come into play when you're taking care of that population.

For me, it's also a great chance to get to go fly as part of my job. Once you've finished your training as a, whatever specialty you are, in my case, a pediatrician, you go out fully trained and and aware of the things that you really need to know as an officer.

Routine visits as a pediatrician vary. You can see kids for well-baby visits and well-child visits, just to make sure that they're growing and developing like they should. You can see them for acute concerns like having a hard time breathing or coughing. There's a big variety that you deal with as a pediatrician.

[dialogue between Capt. McHugh and mother]

As a doc in the Military, you're doing a lot of other things besides just patient care. There's lots of programs that you get involved with. We have the Family Readiness Center, which helps to provide some support services for families. It's definitely got a lot of helpful options for family, like Mom's day out time, where they'll provide some child care so that the mom can actually have a chance to take care of things without the kids running around. There's lots of other agencies, both in the clinic and outside of the clinic that can help.

I actually grew up with my father being in the Air Force. So my first 18 years of life, I actually lived in nine different places. I think the families that I get to see here and a lot of the kids are going through the same things that I went through when I was a kid, and it makes me feel like you're able to help out a little bit easier, and you're able to understand what they're going through. 

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