Veterans Day: After helping save lives in the Middle East, this veteran is ‘bridging the gap between clinicians and technology’

November 11, 2021

By Kathryn Lytton

Ryan Hughes, HIM Analyst at HSC Health

When Ryan Hughes, Health Information Management Analyst at HSC Health, joined the United States Air Force as a heavy equipment mechanic, he did not think his time on the battlefield would lead to a career in the medical field.

“I joined the military to help with school,” said Hughes. “You go into it and think it’s going to pay my bills and pay for school, but then you get into a totally different situation than what you imagined, where life and death is on the line. You grow up really quick and changes your values.”

Soon after joining the Air Force, Hughes was cross trained into Air Force Special Forces and became a pararescue.

“The ultimate mission for pararescue was to rescue downed pilots during wartime scenarios,” explained Hughes. “There’s a lot of medical training that went with pararescue, in fact there’s a years’ worth of medical training where you become a paramedic, so it’s basically a paramedic that jumps out of an airplane or helicopter.”

Hughes’ training took him to the Middle East, where he served in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Iraq.

In Iraq, he made his final jump.

“I’ve jumped out of a plane 62 times – all as pararescue,” said Hughes. “When I got shot, I was in the air in a parachute – that was number 62. That ended my jump career.”

As he recovered, Hughes went back to work in the heavy equipment field but needed to have a few back surgeries related to his injuries from the military and his mechanic work.

“With so much time spent in the hospital, I actually had a bunch of cool male nurses who were really relatable to me,” said Hughes. “Combined with my medical experience in pararescue, I decided to go for it and go back to school for nursing.”

Over the years, Hughes transitioned in his nursing roles through different specialties, and cross-trained into his current role as an HIM analyst when electronic medical records took over the medical world.

“I love what I do at HSC because I can help bridge the gap between clinicians and technology,” said Hughes. “It’s always changing every year or even month to month, so I get the opportunity to be someone who can convey that in an electronic format to make it easier for clinicians to do their job better.”

Hughes said he enjoys HSC’s collaborative university atmosphere.

“I like the ideas and values and the opportunity to expand your skills,” he said.

For Hughes, expanding his knowledge and skills drives him through all aspects of life.

“In anything I do, my why is that I want to try everything,” said Hughes. “I want to learn how to fly a plane, learn how to work in technology, I want to try everything. I think it’s interesting to constantly develop yourself and not necessarily in the same area, but expanding into even what we think we can’t do.” 

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