Navy flight surgeon keeps people healthy in unhealthy situations
Vincent Paul Escanlar, Meds’06, is used to being asked if he operates on soldiers in planes. It’s a common question when you’re a flight surgeon with the Canadian Armed Forces.
His answer to that question is a no. The 32-year-old family physician takes care of military aviation personnel such as pilots, air crew members and search-and-rescue specialists – and sometimes civilians in danger. Vince has jumped out of a helicopter into lakes around Resolute Bay in the Arctic, and he has flown on a search-and-rescue helicopter to pluck an ailing fisherman from a boat off the coast of Newfoundland.
The life of a flight surgeon is the same as that of most doctors – just add in lots of interesting experiences and world travel. “I have a cool job. Working as a physician with the military has been an adventure, to say the least,” says Vince.
He has completed three overseas deployments: at the RCAF base Camp Mirage in Dubai in 2009; in Afghanistan with the Royal Canadian Regiment’s 2nd Battalion in 2012; and most recently he was on board Royal Canadian Navy coastal defence vessels in the Caribbean.
He signed up for the Canadian Armed Forces in his second year of Queen’s medical school. The military paid for his education in return for a four-year commitment in Her Majesty’s service.
He’s often asked where he went to medical school, which sometimes leads to Queen’s mini reunions while in the field. Vincent is so proud of his Queen’s background that he carries a Queen’s flag with him on overseas assignments in case they could lead to Tricolour photo ops with other alumni. He jokes that it’s hard to do an Oil Thigh while carrying an assault rifle and 30 pounds of armour – but it’s doable.
Vince has no idea where his military career will take him next. He’s currently based at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick and expects to be there for the next few months before being given another assignment. He can choose to take advanced training in aviation or dive medicine or go back to school for a Master’s in Public Health or a new medical specialty.
“That’s part of what makes being a doctor in the military constantly appealing,” says Vince. You have a lot of options, and you never know what is coming up next.”