JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Biomedical Sciences Corps Appreciation Week offers the opportunity to explore how this diverse Corps is relevant and critical to ensuring an expeditionary fit and ready force. From head to toe and beyond, the BSC keeps the Air Force combat ready, but what does each career field do?
Clinical Social Workers / Clinical Psychologists
Clinical Social Workers (42S) and Clinical Psychologists (42P) provide mental health diagnosis, treatment, research, consultation, and preventive services to active duty members at all military treatment facilities. Services are mirrored in most theatre locations with slight caveats, such as imminent evaluations concerning medical evacuations. These specialties act as subject matter experts to command teams regarding active duty personnel.
Audiologists (42N) assess and manage auditory dysfunctions and balance systems. While these assessments aren’t conducted in theatre, their expertise provide mitigation strategies to warfighters in austere locations where IED and other explosive devices may detonate. Appropriate prevention for hearing loss could be life or death in battle, hence, the reason why auditory screenings and evaluation for hearing aid assistance now occur early in an Airman’s career for all officer recruits and trainees.
Additionally, throughout physical examination processes, Optometrists (42E) conduct eye exams, vision tests, and fitting for eyeglasses or contact lenses. They also provide vision therapy, monitoring of chronic eye diseases, and diagnosis of eye disorders to assists our active duty in correcting issues that may hinder their readiness status. Optometrists not only ensure healthy vision, but they also fit deployers for their gas mask inserts and manage the aircrew soft contact lens program for our pilots.
Podiatrists (42F) examine and implement treatment for the ankle, foot, and related areas. Prior to members deploying, appropriate surgical intervention or corrective mechanical devices may be issued to keep them mobile. In garrison, many personnel receive braces, casts, and splints from these specialists.
Physical Therapists / Occupational Therapists
Physical Therapy is a component of recovery when musculoskeletal injuries occur. Physical Therapists (42B) plan therapy treatments and provide rehabilitation services. They assist members requiring braces, prosthetic devices and other aids to help with mobility. Similarly, Occupational Therapists (42T) evaluate daily functional activities for service members who require cognitive rehabilitation, musculoskeletal injury prevention services, or even stress management skills.
Physician Assistants (42G) are like the gatekeepers to primary and specialty care. Their services to active duty members encompass comprehensive health assessments, and pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments. They also manage acute and chronic illnesses, injuries, and diseases. In deployed locations, their duties often become more complex due to limited capabilities of technology or access to equipment. Sometimes, you will even find PAs attached to specialized units as embedded providers to enhance access to spontaneous care.
Pharmacists (43P) oversee operations of medication therapy, distribution and management. They ensure the appropriate dosage and delivery reaches each patient based upon their disease state. Capt Adamaris Rivera Santiago, assigned to the 445th Expeditionary Med Ops Squadron, speaks of her experience as a deployed pharmacist. “Being a pharmacist in a deployed environment has been one of the most unique opportunities of my life...every day I do my best to save lives!”
Dietitians (43D) provide evidence-based nutritional education. Food is fuel and these experts ensure that we are making the proper choices regarding our dietary intake. They also help manage disease states that require dietary intervention, such as diabetes, and can help our members achieve goals for anything from weight loss to increasing muscle gain.
Bioenvironmental Engineers (43E) evaluate occupational and environmental health hazards. This can include detecting radioactive materials, checking for pollutants in the drinking water, and ensuring safe industrial hygiene conditions. Our 43Es also oversee fit testing for N-95 masks and the gas masks needed for deploying members.
Public Health Officers (43H) diversely orchestrate vast preventative services. They apply field knowledge and preventative medicine to reduce the incidence of communicable diseases, various illnesses, injuries, and food borne diseases both in garrison and in austere locations. Public Health also leads the entire medical clearance process from pre-deployment health screenings, accomplishing deployed location-specific medical requirements, to coordinating medical waiver approvals. Additionally, Public Health plays a crucial role in our COVID-19 response as they are the leaders of contact tracing efforts.
Biomedical Lab Officers
Biomedical Lab officers (43T) supervise programs and activities in the broad area of biomedical sciences. They often manage and perform analyses of living organisms through hospital, environmental, toxicological, and other means of research. In the deployed setting, they can also screen and issue blood products to critically injured patients, and test for biological warfare agents.
Aerospace and Operational Physiology
When personnel are flying at 50,000 feet, they have been prepared for every possible situation. Aerospace Physiologists (43A) are crucial to ensuring that our pilots and aircrew possess the mental fortitude to succeed in their mission. They train professionals to withstand the physical stress of a high altitude environment, and even participate in missions to ensure the health and safety of our flying crew.
Nonetheless, these professionals would not be able to foster a High Reliability Organization within our MTFs and continuously provide quality care to our active duty service members, dependents, and retirees without the support of their enlisted and civilian BSC counterparts. From the span of administrative tasks to daily operational and tactical execution, acknowledgement and appreciation for our enlisted members’ hard work is unparalleled. Non-commission officers and Senior NCOs are viewed as subject matter experts on solution-focused initiatives and upholding standards as well as mentoring Airmen. In totality, BSCs are highly relevant in ensuring full spectrum expeditionary and in-garrison medical readiness.
As our 56th anniversary theme indicates, “BSCs at the forefront of Air Force Medical Service’s readiness, delivering global health engagement and enhancing world-wide medical response,” our dedicated professionals and technicians are constantly engaged and leading from the front to keep uniformed service members combat ready.