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Committed to serve: Tragedy helped push doctor toward career in medicine

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Editor's note: This is the fifth story in a nine-article series about military providers assigned to Tinker.

Dr. (Capt.) Michael Madsen's career can be attributed to being at the right place, at the right time.

Though he considered an Air Force and medical career long before he actually joined and pursued medical school, he credits one significant American tragedy that "nudged him" toward his future. If not for that, Tinker surely could have missed out on the 72nd Medical Operations Squadron family medicine staff physician, who arrived here in July.

"Dr. Madsen is an invaluable asset to the Family Medicine Clinic for his expert patient care and his enthusiasm for medicine," said Dr. (Maj.) Angela Albrecht, Family Medicine Clinic Medical director and Dr. Madsen's supervisor. "He is an outstanding medical provider; an extremely skillful and caring doctor with a thirst for continuing to expand his knowledge of medicine."

Dr. Madsen, the son of an Air Force colonel, understood the perks of a military lifestyle long before he committed to the service. Despite that, the decision to join the military was not instinctual.

During his freshman year at Brigham Young University in Utah, Dr. Madsen participated in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at Detachment 855. Unsure of the commitment, he ultimately left the program after one year.

In 2001, during his senior year, Dr. Madsen considered a medical career and worked as an emergency medical technician-basic, meaning he was a first-responder to on-campus incidents. During that experience, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred and something within him clicked.

"After that I had more of an inclination to join the military and give back, but I still wasn't entirely sure," Dr. Madsen said.

Between late 2001 and early 2002, the science and math-minded man talked to his dad about the Health Professions Scholarship Program; which, for each year the military paid for his education, he owed a year of service.

"My father told me about it. He never forced me or anything like that," Dr. Madsen said. "He just told me the facts and the things to think about and told me to make my choice. It made sense."

Upon graduation in 2002, Dr. Madsen was accepted to medical school, but deferred for a year, because he still wasn't sure of his career path. Instead, he worked two part-time jobs. But, neither mortgage refinancing nor retail merchandising had a lasting effect on him.

In 2003, he made his decision and attended the Midwestern University Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Madsen graduated in 2007 and completed his residency earlier this year.

"While the pace of residency tends to drive the humanity out of physicians, I worked hard to make sure that I had my priorities straight so that I could be the person and physician I wanted to be," Dr. Madsen said.

Since arriving at Tinker, he sees 80 to 90 patients a week. During his patient-visitation hours, he sees a new one every 20 minutes.

"I sometimes see people when they're at their lowest points and I find it very rewarding to help them see how they can work through those problems, whether it's a physical or mental issue," he said. "I would say that my enjoyment of family medicine comes from three things: continuity with the patient, hands-on treatment and preventative medicine."