An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Science Café hosts Air Force to discuss global health engagement

  • Published
  • By Katie Berland
  • NMHM Public Affairs

Air Force Colonel (Dr.) Antonio Delgado had all eyes on him last month as he presented at the National Museum of Health and Medicine's Medical Museum Science Café on September 27, 2016. As the International Health Specialist Program Director, he spoke on global health engagement and expertise in support of national security objectives.

"The international community is being called upon and will continue to be called upon to address global health issues. As a military organization, how do we respond to the call?" said Delgado. "The need for a focused approach is why it is so important to understand why the Air Force does global health engagements. Through formulating effective plans that extend the operational reach of joint forces, enhancing partner capability through training, mentoring and sharing experiences, and optimizing partner nation airpower concepts through the sharing of aerospace expertise, the U.S. Air Force has been able to make a huge impact on global health."

After explaining the history of flight and aerospace engagements as they relate to the U.S. military and previous conflicts such as the Mexican Revolution, World War I and World War II, Delgado described the "man behind the machine" – the pilot. Before the development of medical requirements and standards for pilots, it was sometimes said that "this man is no longer fit for ground fighting; therefore, he will do for the air service."

"The average combat life expectancy of a pilot in World War I was 2-3 weeks, due to the constraints and dangers of flying. Someone with 60 hours of flight time was considered to be a senior pilot, and likely to die soon," he said. Most of the air fatalities were not caused by air engagements or mechanical failures, but were instead were due to human factors, such as pilots that were not medically fit.

After the development of flight standards and better medical requirements for pilots, the risks from using unfit pilots began to drop. In 1918, Theodore C. Lyster, M.D. established an Army laboratory that put aviation medicine on a sound scientific basis in the United States. He formalized the role of the "flight surgeon." Due to his efforts in planning and directing the Army Air Medical Service, he earned the title "Father of Aviation Medicine."

The flight surgeon would soon become responsible for a variety of tasks. Some of these tasks include investigating all conditions which affect the efficiency of pilots: to institute and carry out, at flying schools or elsewhere, experiments and tests which determine the ability of pilots to fly in high altitudes; to act as a standing medical board for all physical health consideration matters of pilots; to select the air crew; to keep the crew and their families healthy; aero evacuation; and to investigate flight mishaps.

Delgado also spoke on the International Health Specialist Program, which was founded in 2000 by Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Paul K. Carlton. IHSP program prepares individuals across the globe with language skills and cultural knowledge tools to help them when interacting with partner nation counterparts. International Health Specialists plan, lead and execute health-related regional security cooperation activities, assist with disaster response, humanitarian assistance, and health infrastructure development.

Having a strong global health system is essential to survival and aid during natural or health disasters. "If we had a very weak public health system, things could get out of hand very quickly," said Delgado. Over the last decade, infectious disease and disasters have focused the world on its vulnerability to pandemic outbreaks. Having a global health system engagement plan and organization helps contain, prevent and minimize the disastrous effects of disease or disaster.

NMHM's Medical Museum Science Cafes are a regular series of informal talks that connect the mission of the Department of Defense museum with the public. The October Science Café, "The Hard Science of the X-Files" will take place on Oct. 25 at the museum from 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. Anne Simon, a virologist at the University of Maryland and science advisor to the "X-Files," will share her experiences and how she "nudged" producers to include scientifically-accurate storylines.

NMHM was founded as the Army Medical Museum in 1862 and moved to its current location in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 2012. NMHM is an element of the Defense Health Agency. For more information on upcoming events, please call 301-319-3303 or visit