Honoring our physician veterans this Veterans Day
Friday, November 9, 2018
Veterans Day is held each year on November 11 to recognize and honor United States veterans.
This Veterans Day, we’re extending a special ‘thank you’ to a few of our physicians who served in the armed forces.
Click the names below to read about each provider’s military experience.
Dr. Alexander Roitstein, a cardiothoracic surgeon, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1998 to 2001. During this time, he achieved the rank of Major. In the Air Force, he served as the staff cardiothoracic surgeon, a TRACS (trauma) instructor, and as the Team Chief of Thoracic and Vascular Mobility at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
He was later recruited to join BayCare Clinic by Dr. Michael Pierson, an anesthesiologist with BayCare Clinic who served with Roitstein in the Air Force.
Dr. Michael Eppinger, a cardiothoracic surgeon, was active duty Air Force for a little over 23 years. Eppinger spent most of his time at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He completed eight deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, and other locations.
“I pretty much did what every surgeon in the military has been doing,” Eppinger says. “When you’re deployed, you do everything. You’re not just a heart surgeon. Most of us are trained as general surgeons first.”
Dr. Robert Bjoraker, an anesthesiologist, joined the U.S. Air Force in 1983 as a chemical engineer and served for three years at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Greene County, Ohio. Between 1990 and 1994 he did his residency in anesthesiology at Wilford Hall Medical Center, a Level I trauma center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He remained at the medical center teaching from 1994 to 1998.
Bjoraker also served at the Royal Air Force, or RAF, Lakenheath Hospital in England as their head of anesthesia.
Bjoraker joined the U.S. Navy Reserve in 2008 and deployed for nine months to Djibouti, Africa. He retired as Navy Captain in April 2018.
Dr. Michael Pierson, an anesthesiologist, served in the U.S. Air Force at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, from 1988 to 2000 in reserve and active duty roles. After leaving the Air Force, Pierson joined BayCare Clinic in 2000 and later recruited Drs. Robert Bjoraker (anesthesia) and Alexander Roitstein (cardiothoracic surgery) to join BayCare Clinic.
Dr. Jon Henry, an orthopedic surgeon, served in the U.S. Army Reserve, Medical Corps from 1996 to 2008 as an orthopedic surgeon.
He joined the Army Reserves during his orthopedic residency and did two combat deployments in Afghanistan and one in Iraq.
His service goal was to provide excellent orthopedic care for our military personnel and he says his military experiences enhanced his skills and confidence as a civilian surgeon.
Henry is also proud and humbled by his time spent in the military.
“My number one realization from my own military experiences, especially from my combat service, is a far greater appreciation and respect for our veterans, for the sacrifices they and their families have made to benefit our country,” Henry says. “Our freedom is based on their honorable service and sacrifice.”
Three of our neurological surgeons served in the armed forces.
Dr. Wesley Griffitt (left) served in the U.S. Air Force from 1996 to 2000 at Travis Air Force Base in California.
Dr. Paul Baek (middle) was a member of the U.S. Navy from 1995 to 1998 stationed in San Diego, California, and was honorably discharged as a Lt. Commander in June of 1998.
Dr. Richard Harrison (right) served in the U.S. Army Reserve – Medical Corp from 1989 to 2009 at Fort Gillem in Georgia.
Dr. Ronald Christianson, a radiologist, spent 13 years in the U.S. Air Force. He went to medical school at the University of Maryland, did an internal medicine internship at Wilford Hall Medical Center at San Antonio, Texas, and took aerospace medicine training in San Antonio.
He later served for two years as a flight surgeon at Vandenburg Air Force Base in California. He helped rescue civilians stranded in ship wrecks and plane crashes.
He worked as a Space Shuttle flight surgeon and took care of the astronauts and helped develop the shuttle program at Vandenburg.
Christianson also served in Desert Storm as a flight surgeon.
Dr. Jeffrey Shere, an ophthalmologist with BayCare Clinic Eye Specialists, joined the U.S. Army in 1992. After completing his four-year ROTC, or Reserve Officer Training Corps, in 1996, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and attended medical school.
In 2000, he entered active duty as a Captain in the Army. Over the next 16 years, he served as the Chief of the Ophthalmology Service at Martin Army Hospital in Fort Benning, Georgia, as the Chief of Ophthalmology at the Army Institute of Surgical Research, and he worked in a teaching position as an attending vitreoretinal surgeon in Washington.
In 2016, he transitioned out of active duty.
“I made the decision to transition into the Army Reserve and to take my current position at BayCare Clinic so my family and I could move closer to our extended family,” Dr. Shere says.
He feels honored and proud to be part of the Army.
“Most of my professional career has been spent among Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen. Each day of that career I was humbled by their example of selfless service. There was no greater honor to be entrusted to take care of our nation’s greatest citizens,” he says.
His current reserve unit is a head and neck surgical augmentation team in St. Louis, Missouri.