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Face of Defense: Air Force Flight Surgeon Saves Lives

By Airman 1st Class Jarrod Grammel
23rd Wing Public Affairs

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. , June 6, 2012 – Leaning over a small desk, Air Force flight surgeon Capt. Susan Marchiano finishes reviewing a patient's medical file. The tall, dark-haired doctor has a warm, friendly voice that makes people feel at ease.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force flight surgeon Capt. Susan Marchiano looks over a wounded U.S. service member's medical treatment record aboard a military aircraft en route to a field hospital in Afghanistan, April 12, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

She has worked everywhere from small, spotless rooms furnished with reclining leather chairs, to the inside of thundering HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters in Afghanistan.

Marchiano, flight commander of the 347th Operations Support Squadron here, was recognized as the Air Force’s best flight surgeon for 2011.

"It was a combination of her outstanding efforts, both downrange and flight medicine duties at home, that won her the award," said Air Force Lt. Col. David Blocker, the commander of the 23rd Aerospace Medicine Squadron. "Marchiano not only distinguished herself downrange but also displayed a willingness to fill leadership roles while caring for the rescue personnel."

Marchiano began her military career as a flight surgeon three years ago. Her interest in medicine, she said, started like most other doctors -- with wanting to help people.

"Back when I was growing up, I had a friend who died of cancer," Marchiano said. "That's what convinced me to become a doctor."

In early 2011, Marchiano deployed to Afghanistan, where she distinguished herself as a casualty evacuation medical director.

Marchiano led from the front in Afghanistan, Blocker said, noting she’d notched more than 130 combat flying hours there in 2011, and was credited with saving 82 lives.

Marchiano said she enjoys maintaining her squadron’s operational readiness here.  "I get to see and interact with the aircrew and rescue personnel," she said. "We help train the pararescuemen and assist them with medical treatment and evacuation."

Marchiano also helps care for the more than 1,200 patients at the flight medicine clinic here. She also supervises seven medical personnel who provide care, sustainment training and education for more than 400 service members.

"One of the things that made her stand out was that she made herself available for patients," Blocker said. "She also did an outstanding job providing rescue personnel with their specialized training. From the time she was first assigned to Moody, she took hold of opportunities and ran with them. You normally don't see that level of work until later in a career.”

Marchiano also “understands patient care, medical responsibilities and the operations we do," he added. "There is a difference between serving as a doctor in the military and in the civilian world. In the military, you have to mix the operational aspect and medical care."

Despite her professional success, Marchiano has stayed modest, and she acknowledges the people who’ve helped her along the way.

"I'm happy and excited about being named Air Force Flight Surgeon of the Year A lot of other people put in a lot of hard work. If it wasn't for their help, I wouldn't have won."

After having saved dozens of lives in dangerous, far-flung Afghanistan, Marchiano quietly sits at her desk after treating patients at the clinic here.

Like any other doctor, Marchiano said she continues to go to work every day for one simple reason -- to help people.

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