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Flight doc: plans didn’t include the Air Force, stethoscopes

Dr. (Capt.) Dan Pascucci and Staff Sgt. Brandi Kelley check a 72nd Medical Group ambulance to ensure it’s ready for any in-flight emergency calls. Both are with the 965th Airborne Air Control Squadron, caring for 350 people in their squadron and also serving Tinker’s Airmen in the Flight Medicine Clinic. Sergeant Kelley is an independent duty medical technician who works closely with Dr. Pascucci. Here, and especially during deployments, the “super medic” works side-by-side with Dr. Pascucci on all aspects of patient care. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Dr. (Capt.) Dan Pascucci and Staff Sgt. Brandi Kelley check a 72nd Medical Group ambulance to ensure it’s ready for any in-flight emergency calls. Both are with the 965th Airborne Air Control Squadron, caring for 350 people in their squadron and also serving Tinker’s Airmen in the Flight Medicine Clinic. Sergeant Kelley is an independent duty medical technician who works closely with Dr. Pascucci. Here, and especially during deployments, the “super medic” works side-by-side with Dr. Pascucci on all aspects of patient care. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

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

Daniel Pascucci didn't grow up dreaming of becoming a doctor. He didn't want to own a stethoscope, analyze symptoms of an illness and treat a patient. Instead, despite his parents' insistence, he wanted to be an actor, minister or religious professor. Neither an Air Force career nor medical degree entered his mind.

Yet, today he is Dr. (Capt.) Pascucci, a 965th Airborne Air Control Squadron flight surgeon assigned to the 72nd Aerospace Medical Squadron.

"Captain Pascucci is a remarkable young officer and flight surgeon," said Lt. Col. Peter Mykytyn, 965th AACS commander. "What he brings to the 965th is a professional demeanor and a wealth of knowledge. When people get sick he'll take care of them and get them the proper care we need to ensure their time away from work is limited. This allows us to focus on the mission, preparing for our next contingency."

Dr. Pascucci changed his mind about medicine in college. While in his third year at Washington University in St. Louis, he worked as a respite-care provider on the weekends for a family whose two children had Aicardi Goutieres Syndrome. A rare form of Leukodystrophy, the genetic and neurological disorder is often diagnosed within the first few weeks of life and is often fatal.

"Being a part of that family helped me realize there's a lot of comfort a good physician can offer families with medical needs," Dr. Pascucci said.

With that, he reconsidered what his parents had been saying. But, he still hadn't thought about the Air Force.

In his senior year of college, Dr. Pascucci received a pamphlet in the mail advertising a scholarship for medical school if he joined the military. He considered their offer and chose the Air Force after thinking about his grandfathers' experiences in the Army Air Corps and Army, respectively. His maternal grandfather was an Army Air Corps, then Air Force, pilot who flew in World War II. His paternal grandfather was an Army doctor. Plus, he knew if he joined the Air Force, he could likely be stationed at Tinker; his parents lived in nearby Norman.

"I liked that. I'm a homebody and I love Oklahoma," said the University of Oklahoma Sooners fan. "So, having the opportunity to be in Oklahoma, in the same branch my grandfather was in and stay closer to home in between deployments was very attractive to me."

Dr. Pascucci attended the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine on the Health Professions Scholarship Program. For every year that the Air Force paid for his schooling, Dr. Pascucci owed a year of service.

In 2003, Dr. Pascucci went into the inactive Reserves and began medical school. In the summer of 2007, Dr. Pascucci started his residency. After completing the first year, his residency was put on hold and his status changed to active duty. Dr. Pascucci transferred to Tinker, his first base, to fulfill his time commitment.

Dr. Pascucci arrived here in July 2008. As a flight surgeon, he primarily cares for Tinker flyers within the 965th AACS and sees approximately 100 patients a week.

"I love working with my squadron, the line side of it," he said. "I belong to them and they belong to me. Being able to take care of them, deploy with them and see their side of the military has been my biggest enjoyment."

Even though Dr. Pascucci never pictured himself as a doctor or military officer, these days he his goals are all about the medical profession and the Air Force. Upon fulfilling his military obligation, Dr. Pascucci said he wants to finish his residency.

If he stays with his original specialty, internal medicine, he has two more years. If Dr. Pascucci goes for anesthesiology instead, he has three years left.