Veteran no longer avoiding doctors

During his 13 years in the U.S. Air Force, Maj. Kevin Peterson and his fellow pilots shared a strategy when it came to doctors – avoid them.

Tell a flight doctor you have even mild symptoms and risk finding yourself off flight duty and facing months of tests, he said.

“Pilots think all doctors do is keep them from flying,” Maj. Peterson said. “It’s kind of a lack of trust.”

As one of 108 UNT Health Science Center students who are veterans or affiliated with the military, Maj. Peterson (TCOM ’17) soon will be working to improve that pilot-doctor relationship. He has applied for the Air Force Pilot Physician Program, which allows pilots to earn medical degrees and then return to service as a pilot and physician.

In addition to his duties piloting F-16s, Maj. Peterson will use his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree to provide medical care to service members and their families. His role would differ from those of flight surgeons, who are not rated pilots.

Major-Kevin-Peterson_275x183“I would essentially be a family doctor for the same squadron of pilots that I fly with,” he said. “That would go a long way toward building that trust level and improve the level of care they receive.  Obviously, you don’t want pilots putting off issues with their health.”

Maj. Peterson said he chose to attend UNTHSC because the hands-on, holistic strategies emphasized by osteopathic medicine fit his beliefs about the care doctors should provide patients. He also appreciates that UNTHSC, designated a 2015 Military Friendly® School, supports student veterans.

“Our administration has shown that they are really excited about working with military veterans and the G.I. and Veterans Affairs programs,” Maj. Peterson said. “I’m excited to take everything I learn here back into the military with me.”

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