Guard Officer Keeps Soldiers, Citizens Healthy as Physician Assistant

As a youngster, John Price wanted to be a doctor and a lawyer.

“I took every hard class that you could take in school. All the calculus, high-level sciences, everything I could, just so I could keep my options open.”

He was pre-med in college, but decided to leave school and join the Army because the education he would need to achieve his career goals “was just way too expensive and I couldn’t afford it.”

So after serving in Korea as a Korean linguist in military intelligence, Price went back to school, went to ROTC to become an officer, and joined the Army National Guard as an intelligence officer. That is, until he heard about a different opportunity that lined up a little more closely with one of his childhood dreams – a military school for physician assistants that would be paid for through the Guard.

In the mid-1990s, all branches of the U.S. military consolidated their training for physician assistants into one program, the Interservice Physician Assistant Program (IPAP), located at Ft. Sam Houston in Texas. A physician assistant (PA) is a nationally certified and state licensed medical professional who can diagnose and treat patients, and prescribe medicine.

Now a Major in the Ohio Army National Guard, Price has been a 65D Physician Assistant for the last 9 years, where he has worked in his State’s Medical Detachment, where “the goal is to get everyone healthy and medically fit, medically ready to do their jobs,” and now as a full-time active duty Guardsman for a Civil Support Team (CST) “where we are first responders for large-scale disasters.”

MAJ Price (left) and his Civil Support Team practice their skills regularly.

MAJ Price (left) and his Civil Support Team practice their skills regularly.

The CST’s role is to protect citizens from chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) threats. And while the Unit is considered non-deployable for an overseas mission, it is hardly stationary.

“We can be called up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

Based in Columbus, the Unit can be activated for sporting events, where MAJ Price has treated people for things like heat exhaustion, and high-profile events like the Republican National Convention held in Cleveland last year.

Plus, about one week a month, MAJ Price and the rest of his Unit will train in another city in Ohio, or usually in a nearby State, to practice different scenarios in dealing with CBRNE threats. They also work closely with police and fire departments to foster good working relationships.

“We get to do our job every day,” he says. We get to not only do it, but improve upon it. Then we get to critique it, and test each other on it so we’re constantly getting better.”

MAJ Price says he loves his choice of occupation.

“I think PAs have the absolute best job in the world. It’s one of the top 10 professions that you can have in America right now.”

He says one of the benefits of the job is its versatility.

“There are so many opportunities. You can go into any area of medicine. You’re not stuck. You don’t get specialized in one area.”

In fact, on top of his full-time job with the Guard, MAJ Price works at least one day a week in emergency medicine and urgent care in the civilian world.

And while some employers might frown upon moonlighting, the Guard is supportive of MAJ Price’s desire to take advantage of career development opportunities outside the military.

“It’s actually something that they want me to do, to make sure that I’m getting other skills, just like a civilian clinical person would.”

He brings those skills back to his small 22-person Unit, which has been together a long time.

“That’s one of the great things about the military, how we take care of each other, and the camaraderie on a small mission team that works together all the time, doing different scenarios. You can’t beat it.”

So if you’d like to be part of a team that’s dedicated to service, consider joining the Army National Guard, which offers career training in fields like medicine, intelligence, transportation and infantry. Check out our job board for details on each career – there are more than 150 of them – and reach out to your local recruiter to answer any questions you might have.  

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