By Staff. Sgt. Leticia Samuels, Army National GuardFebruary 27, 2018
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait -- He swayed back and forth in anticipation as he waited for the general officer to come ask questions within his area.
Spc. Thomas Fisher, medic with the 248th Aviation Support Battalion, 449th Combat Aviation Brigade, stood at parade rest and spoke with confidence as U.S. Army 35th Infantry Division Commanding General Maj. Gen. Victor Braden spoke to his unit about the grand opening of the tobacco cessation clinic started at Camp Buehring Jan. 3, 2018.
"It's not every day you have the honor to meet a two star general!" said Fisher.
His anticipation built because he led the staff in opening the smoking cessation clinic, which is one of the accomplishments he has completed in his newly established military career. His biggest is carrying on the military family tradition, which steered his decision to join.
"I had a great uncle who served in World War II as a medic and received a purple heart at the Battle of the Bulge," said Fisher. "Although I never got to meet him, it was a story I kept with me growing up. Being a medic in the Army is an honor, and largely influenced my decision."
The traditional Guardsman fulfills a dual role of a citizen-soldier. The Iowa native established a career in pharmacy after attending a science class, which ultimately started him on his military path.
"I first got interested in health care after taking an anatomy and physiology class my senior year of high school," said Fisher. "After that, I was sold on the idea of the health science field. After a year of pre-med classes, my attention turned to shorter-duration health science programs. Pharmacy was a good fit. I knew a career in pharmacy would be stable, challenging, require an immense amount of lifelong learning, and opportunity to help, which I find brings job satisfaction."
Fisher said that he worked for Walgreens as a pharmacy manager but admitted it wasn't his true passion. This sparked his interest in completing his post-graduate year residency, which armed him with the skills he would later need to institute a smoking cessation program, along with other skills.
"Residency programs for pharmacists are optional but essential if one wants a more competitive job such as the hospital or more specialized type of jobs," said Fisher. "My residency was at the Phoenix Veteran Affairs office and was specialized for ambulatory care. Ambulatory care refers to more chronic disease state management such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking cessation etc."
This decision, along with countless hours of hard work through his schooling, lead him to working with veterans at the hospital of Veterans Affairs in Iowa City.
"I work with Veterans who develop blood clots or have high risk factors for clots," said Fisher. "We have certain medications that require extensive management such as overseeing frequent appointments, lab work and providing extensive education to prevent additional clots or other risks such as strokes or heart attacks."
Now enlisted in the Iowa Army National Guard, Fisher found a new competitive circle to quench his thirst for knowledge.
"Being a good medic requires an immense amount of continual training," said Fisher. "A significant portion of our training and skill set is point of injury care or pre-hospital care. My background in pharmacy was very helpful in understanding the underlying physiological processes that occur to the body during battlefield injuries, or routine illnesses. Having advanced classes in pathology and therapeutics definitely helps."
Fisher said that even though he has just started his military career he aspires to complete 20 years of service or more.
"It's very satisfying putting on this uniform on a daily basis and helping to take care of ill or injured soldiers," said Fisher. "The ability to help and care for Iowa Veterans is definitely the greatest reward on the pharmacy side. On the medic side, it's a privilege to take care of Soldiers and helping to keep them in the fight."