Biomedical Sciences Corps’ impact on base reaches deep

  • Published
  • By John Parker
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Many Team Tinker members may not immediately know what the Biomedical Sciences Corps is, but thousands of them have personally benefited from what the BSC does.

In all, the Air Force Medical Service BSC encompasses physical therapy, optometry, podiatry, physician assistants, audiology, speech pathology, clinical psychology, clinical social work, occupational therapy, aerospace and operational physiology, dietetics, bioenvironmental engineers, public health, medical entomology, pharmacy, biomedical laboratory, health care facilities architects/engineers, and health and medical physics.

“We like to think we’re the most important corps because we’re everywhere,” said Optometry Flight Commander and Senior BSC Adviser Lt. Col. Stephen Simpson. “Our folks have an impact not only on the flying mission, not only on the medical mission here, but also the public health and safety mission we have here, the food we eat, the water we drink, the hazardous waste that’s generated, the facilities that we work in – all of those things. That’s what we take care of.”

Tinker hosts one of the largest and most important BSC teams in the Air Force, the colonel said. The more than 200 BSC Airmen, including 26 officers, and many more civilians and contractors, recently celebrated Biomedical Sciences Corps Appreciation Week and the corps’ 52 years of service since 1965.

The BSC is one of the five officer corps in the Air Force Medical Service. The other corps focus more specifically on medical doctors, dentists, nurses and administrators. The BSC, however, is a broader and more diverse cadre of health care providers, ranging from optometrists to bioenvironmental engineers, and just about everything in between.

BSC medical professionals who work at the 72nd Medical Group take care of about 63,000 patients. Patients include active duty military members, Reserve and Guard members, retirees and dependents living throughout central Oklahoma.

As an example of the mission’s scale, Pharmacist Capt. Joshua Wiser noted that “in general we do 1,200 to 1,300 prescriptions a day, which is about five times what an average Walgreens or CVS pharmacy does on a good day.”

The BSC encompasses 15 fields of specialization, including audiology, speech pathology, clinical social work, psychologists, public health specialists and biomedical lab technicians.

BSC Airmen can be found working anywhere on base. The program keeps an eye on bloodborne pathogen threats, entomology, occupational health matters and more. Members inspect all restaurants, cafeterias and food vendors on base. Staff Sgt. Alan Nham is a public health technician and NCOIC of the Community Health Program.

“We make sure everyone is staying within the guidelines to make sure food is kept safe for the entire population,” the sergeant said.

Capt. Brennan Houbrick, an industrial hygienist in Bioenvironmental Engineering, is one of the BSC Airmen working with architects and engineers as advisers on construction of the 158-acre KC-46A maintenance, repair and overhaul campus near Bldg. 9001. We are reviewing plans, for example, to make sure that safety features such as ventilation systems are up to the task of protecting people working on the new aerial refueling tankers beginning in 2019.

“We want to make sure everything’s good to go from our point of view so there are no problems down the road,” the captain said.

Captains Ryan Montanari and Andrea Theye, both psychologists, and Maj. Shannon Roman, Mental Health Element Chief and also a psychologist, help provide mental health services and counseling to adults and children alike.

“We deal with family difficulties, how to successfully deal with various challenges of parenthood and also any kind of issues with drug or alcohol problems,” Captain Montanari said. “We also do disaster mental health response, meaning that if there’s something that happens on base, like a death or a natural disaster, we stand ready to respond and offer services, being there for the units and reassuring people and helping them find a path forward.”

Physician Assistant Capt. Joseph Jones said most BSC PAs come from diverse enlisted backgrounds.

“So we’ve spent time out on the flight line or in other enlisted areas and bring that knowledge into our family health practice,” Captain Jones said. “It really helps us see both the patient side and the medical side as we’re doing our best for the Air Force and the members.”

Lieutenant Colonel Simpson said BSC Airmen enjoy helping people stay healthy and improve their lives.

“We bring to the fight the ability to help the health of our patients, their quality of life and the ability to do their jobs,” the BSC executive said. “We know that we’re helping those airplanes take off and land safely. We’re protecting our workers from breathing hazardous air. We’re taking care of our members and our families when there’s a deployment.

“Our teams reach out and touch all of the missions here at Tinker, and we’re proud of that.”