Surgeon’s career takes flight
Wesley Abadie, MD’03, has accumulated a lot of frequent flyer miles during his career, which probably isn’t unusual for a busy otolaryngologist.
What is unusual is racking up a big chunk of those miles in the back seat of a fighter jet streaking across the skies of Afghanistan and Iraq at close to Mach 1.
Abadie, a Lt. Col. in the U.S. Air Force, has served in the Middle East twice so far — once as a flight surgeon transporting patients for more complex care, and again as a surgeon operating on U.S. personnel, allied forces and enemy combatants as well.
“It’s special being able to do medicine in a deployed environment, and it’s incredibly rewarding that I get to perform my specialty in service to my country,” Abadie said. “I’ve been given unique opportunities, such as being a flight surgeon — after all, not everyone can just walk up and ask for a ride in a fighter plane.”
In Afghanistan, Abadie was able to see and treat diseases and injuries that simply aren’t seen in a civilian setting, even at a major trauma center like Vanderbilt’s.
“It’s hard to describe in words what some of these patients were going through. I was the only American otolaryngologist in Afghanistan, so for them, I was the only option. They were literally getting the best care possible. The training I got at Vanderbilt helped develop skills that I couldn’t get anywhere else.”
Abadie initially was accepted to Vanderbilt out of high school for undergraduate studies, but opted instead to take advantage of the opportunities at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, earning a BS in biology in 1999. Following medical school at Vanderbilt, he stayed for his general surgery internship.
From there, his primary postings have been at San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. There he served in numerous roles, including flight surgeon for the Air Force’s elite Weapons School pilot training program and as chief of Surgery at Mike O’Callaghan Federal Medical Center.
In July 2018 he was transferred to Virginia’s USAF Langley Hospital, where he treats military personnel and their dependents, performs head and neck operations and serves as Otolaryngology Consultant to the Air Force Surgeon General.
“It’s greatly rewarding being able to play a role in shaping the future of otolaryngology at Air Force bases around the world,” Abadie said. “I’m tremendously thankful for the education I got at Vanderbilt, and it’s an honor and a privilege to use it to care for people. I’m proud to represent Vanderbilt and serve my country.”