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New Horizons Airman travels many medical career paths

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Acevedo, New Horizons onsite team lead and pediatrician, assists with distributing medications during a medical readiness training exercise, or MEDRETE, May 2, 2014, at the Isabel Palma Polyclinic in San Antonio, Belize. Belizeans received medical care through Belizean health care workers, as well as Canadian and U.S. military care providers. The MEDRETE offers medical health professionals from all three countries the opportunity to train and interact with one another while providing free health care to Belizean residents. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kali L. Gradishar/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Acevedo, New Horizons onsite team lead and pediatrician, assists with distributing medications during a medical readiness training exercise, or MEDRETE, May 2, 2014, at the Isabel Palma Polyclinic in San Antonio, Belize. Belizeans received medical care through Belizean health care workers, as well as Canadian and U.S. military care providers. The MEDRETE offers medical health professionals from all three countries the opportunity to train and interact with one another while providing free health care to Belizean residents. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kali L. Gradishar/Released)

PUNTA GORDA, Belize -- For five years he was a medical laboratory officer. Then, off he went to medical school while in the inactive Reserve. After that, he found himself as a flight commander over pediatrics until he journeyed to Landstuhl in Germany. Then Lakenheath, England. And then Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

His travels continue as he is now off to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland for a neonatal intensive care fellowship.

For U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Acevedo, changes in assignment and new adventures are nothing out of the ordinary.

"I'll stay in for 20 years and retire, but I'll make sure I have a well-rounded career before it's time to move on to something else," he said.

He had already been accepted to medical school before joining the military, but he said he just wasn't ready to go. After spending the five years as an Air Force medical laboratory officer, Acevedo felt like he was finally ready. He resigned his commission as a captain to attend school at the University of Texas-Galveston, and then completed his residency at the San Antonio Military Medical Center.

"It really worked out well, I think," the lieutenant colonel said. "Because I had already been a captain, I got promoted ahead of my peers; so it all catches up."

A handful of assignments later, Acevedo found himself tasked as the lead for a team of medical providers during the New Horizons Belize 2014 medical readiness training exercise, or MEDRETEs, in the southern Toledo District in Belize.

In Belize, Acevedo and his team of doctors, nurses, technicians and educators from Belize, Canada and the U.S provided free medical care to Belizeans. Half of the team's training exercise was spent at a well-established polyclinic in Toledo District taking every available room, chair and bed to bring in patients. The other half of the training exercise was spent in two remote villages far from main roads and hospital comforts.

"Because deployments are so rare for us, missions like these are part of our core competencies as pediatricians," said Acevedo. "This is why we decide to get into this field - to help people."

There were many opportunities to help people as men, women and children - people of all ages - stood in line at the five different MEDRETE locations in southern Belize to receive free medical care. The team offered women's health, optometric, dental, pediatric, and general medical care to anyone able to travel to the event.

New Horizons has been "very, very satisfying," he said, considering the many people the New Horizons MEDRETE teams were able to offer free health care.

His job satisfaction, however, extends beyond providing care to people of foreign nations.

While his career field does not commonly deploy, he finds immense satisfaction in assisting the families of those who do often deploy.

The circumstances vary. One or both parents may be deployed when his or her child is in need of an experienced pediatrician. Acevedo has found himself on the home station side of such circumstances, providing the best care possible to military children. By doing his job well, Acevedo can ease parents' concerns when they are deployed and unable to be at their child's bedside.

"It's when the parents call from downrange to say 'thanks' when I've cared for their child, that's when you really feel like you are completing your mission as a pediatrician," Acevedo shared.

Acevedo will continue searching for the next big adventure, never ceasing to learn and expand his knowledge, he said. He may plan to retire from the military, but he said he doesn't think he'll ever really retire from being a pediatrician.

"Some people say that doctors don't ever retire; they just die," he said. "They never stop being a doctor. They stay in medicine in some capacity, like in training and education."

"I don't know what I'll do outside of the military," he said, "but I know it will be in medicine."


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