AF’s best flight surgeon aims to help people

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jarrod Grammel
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
Leaning over a small desk, the flight surgeon finishes reviewing a patient's medical file. The tall, dark-haired doctor has a warm, friendly voice that could make any patient feel at ease.

She has worked in everything from small, spotless rooms, furnished with reclining, leather chairs, to the inside of HH-60G Pave Hawks in Afghanistan.

She is U.S. Air Force Capt. Susan Marchiano, 347th Operations Support Squadron flight commander and the 2011 U.S. Air Force Flight Surgeon of the Year.

"It was a combination of her outstanding efforts, both downrange and flight medicine duties at home, that won her the award," said Lt. Col. David Blocker, 23d Aerospace Medicine Squadron commander. "Marchiano not only distinguished herself downrange, but also displayed a willingness to fill leadership roles while caring for the rescue personnel."

The doctor began her career as a flight surgeon three years ago. Her interest in medicine started like most other doctors, wanting to help people she said.

"Back when I was growing up, I had a friend who died of cancer," said Marchiano. "That's what convinced me to become a doctor.

"At first I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do, only that I wanted to be a doctor," she added. "I was presented this opportunity and took it. It turned out to be pretty good job."

In early 2011, Marchiano deployed to Afghanistan, where she distinguished herself as a casualty evacuation medical director.

"Marchiano led from the front, personally flying aboard six HH-60 and 148 HC-130 combat sorties for a total of 133.6 combat flying hours in 2011, directly credited with 82 saved lives and 143 assists," Blocker wrote in a letter of recommendation. "During that time, she also provided 45 hours of medical training to Independent Duty Medical Technicians (IDMTs), pararescuemen and combat rescue officers, and aided in the implementation of HH-60 blood administration procedures, leading to the first successful blood transfusion performed in-flight in a U.S. helicopter since 2001."

For Marchiano one unique aspect of being a combat search and rescue flight surgeon at Moody is maintaining the operational readiness of the 347th Rescue Group.

"I get to see and interact with the aircrew and rescue personnel," she said. "We help train the pararescuemen and assist them with medical treatment and evacuation.

"I meet a lot of great people, and I love interacting with the aircrew and rescue personnel," Marchiano added. "A lot of doctors don't get to see that aspect."

While at Moody, Marchiano contributes to the care of more than 1,200 patients assigned to the Moody Flight Medicine Clinic. She also supervises seven medical personnel who provide care, and sustainment training and education for 450 members of the 347th RQG.

"One of the things that made her stand out was that she made herself available for patients," said Blocker. "She also did an outstanding job providing rescue personnel with their specialized training. From the time she was first assigned to Moody, she took a hold of opportunities and ran with them. You normally don't see that level of work until later in a career.

"Marchiano understands patient care, medical responsibilities and the operations we do," he added. "There is a difference between serving as a doctor in the military and in the civilian world. In the military, you have to mix the operational aspect and medical care."

Despite this recognition, Marchiano stays modest and acknowledged all the people who helped her along the way.

"I'm happy and excited about being named Air Force Flight Surgeon of the Year," she said. "A lot of other people put in a lot of hard work. If it wasn't for their help, I wouldn't have won."

After three years on the job, a deployment to Afghanistan and 82 lives saved downrange, Marchiano sits at her desk after treating patients in the clinic. Like any other doctor, she goes to work every day for one simple reason - to help people.