As a physician in the U.S. Air Force, you will be responsible for the health and well-being of the men and women who fight, fly and soar into space to defend the nation and its international interests. 

Your job will be to treat your patients and provide them with the best care possible, but your experience will be uniquely different. You’ll not only be a medical doctor, but also an Air Force Officer, and you’ll receive advantages that allow you to advance your career as far as you’d like it to go. Air Force doctors receive a top-notch education with a wide array of career-broadening opportunities and serve around the world in their chosen profession.

Core Mission

The Air Force Medical Service comprises nearly 60,000 active-duty, Reserve, civilian, and contract medical professionals who are responsible for the care of more than 2.6 million beneficiaries. Working environments include clinics, hospitals, operational settings, deployed and austere environments, and research labs. Air Force Graduate Medical Education also remains robust and allows for training in 85 specialties.

U.S. Air Force: Life as an Air Force Physician

Hear Air Force service members discuss what they find most interesting about their jobs.

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U.S. Air Force: Life as an Air Force Physician

Hear Air Force service members discuss what they find most interesting about their jobs.

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WILLIAMS: Practicing medicine in the United States Air Force is very rewarding. You're taking care of a very special population of people who have served their country or are family members of people who have served their country. For me, the most interesting part about this job is not necessarily what happens in the clinic but it's the extra duties that are what excite me. For example, I went on a humanitarian mission, a two-week mission to the Dominican Republic. You're doing something that's far outside the spectrum of just the clinical work and that excites me. So one thing they do as a flight surgeon is they put us in the jet. I mean what other job can you say you get to go fly in a jet once a week? Do barrel rolls and aileron rolls? In the civilian sector, many times there's a gigantic insurance company or an HMO that that dictates patient care, but in the Air Force I can take care of my patients the way I want to. So if there is a test that the patient needs, it doesn't really matter how expensive, I get the test. The Air Force is completely on the cutting edge of technology. We have the latest imaging technology for radiology, the latest technology for surgical procedures. I take a lot of pride being a physician in the Air Force and it's been an outstanding opportunity and experience to be a part of a team who's treating patients but also carrying out a bigger mission.

Career Highlights

Healthcare professionals work with patients all over the world in facilities ranging from small ambulatory clinics to large medical centers. Since every base provides a unique, tight-knit community, your patients could be your neighbors or coworkers. Air Force officers and physicians are encouraged to take full advantage of their positions to pursue leadership roles in relevant professional societies to advance their careers and remain at the cutting edge of their respective specialties, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Aerospace Medicine
  • Anesthesiology
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Family Medicine
  • General Surgery
  • Nuclear Medicine
  • Ophthalmology
  • Orthopedics
  • Pulmonology/Critical Care

Locations

Within the Air Force, there are 76 military medical facilities located all around the world with working environments that include health clinics, hospitals, operational settings, and research labs.

Research Opportunities

As a physician in the U.S. Air Force, you’ll have the opportunity to serve at the forefront of medical research and development. Read on to discover just a handful of the many unique Air Force research opportunities that may be available to you.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is a leader in the discovery, development, and integration of warfighting technologies for air, space, and cyberspace forces. This is the premier location for integrating medical research in human performance and in aerospace medicine, designed to create the most advanced and sustainable technologies to support the warfighting mission.

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At the David Grant Medical Center, located at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California, experts have led advances in a growing number of research fields, including: 

  • Critical Care
  • Trauma Resuscitation
  • Long-Term Health Outcomes for Combat Soldiers
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Effects of Energy Drink Consumption
  • Evidence-Based Practice/Continuous Process Improvement
  • Fitness nutrition

Air Force physician-scientists and uniformed military physicians have also participated in projects funded by the Defense Health Program (DHP) Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) appropriation, such as:

  • Medical Simulation and Information Sciences Research Program
  • Military Infectious Diseases Research Program
  • Military Operational Medicine Research Program
  • Combat Casualty Care Research Program
  • Radiation Health Effects Research Program
  • Clinical and Rehabilitative Medicine Research Program

In addition, there are also opportunities to participate in studies conducted at the Uniformed Services University Centers of Research.

Learn More About Medical Careers in the Air Force