The Doc Is In… The Military: Uniformed Physicians Honored on Doctor’s Day

By Alex Snyder, Defense Media Activity

National Doctors’ Day is celebrated every March 30th, to recognize the contributions of physicians to individual lives and communities. But in the military, our doctors contribute to something much larger, serving a population who is vital to national security. In honor of that hard work and sacrifice, we’re highlighting some of the great men and women who wear a white coat and a uniform to the office every day.


Did you know that U.S. Navy doctors don’t only work with sailors? Some naval medical officers deploy with U.S. Marines, since the service doesn’t have its own medical corps. Here are some of the doctors you could encounter- at sea, or on land.

(DoD photos by Reese Brown)


Dr. John Minarcik, an ophthalmologist at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia, was rated by patients across the military health system as the best specialist they had encountered. He received only positive responses on a survey that asks questions about the military health care experience in 2017.


(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Brame)


From left, Navy doctors Lt. Cmdr. Robert Lennon and Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Barlow work with Brazilian medical officer 2nd Lt. Raissa Vieira Sanches to perform an operation to drain an abscess for a young woman near the remote town of Beruri in Brazil, Dec. 7. Barlow and Lennon were members of a team of five Navy physicians who joined the Brazilian Navy on a month-long humanitarian mission up the Amazon River last year to deliver healthcare to some of the most isolated people in the world.



Air Force doctors are consistently on the cutting-edge of medical research and treatments. Renowned for their Family Medicine Residency programs, these docs aim high when it comes to caring for their patients.

(U.S. Air Force photos by John Harrington)


Lt. Col. Dann Naumann, a doctor with the 512th Airlift Wing at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, was the medical director on the Smoky Mountain Innovative Readiness Training mission last summer. The annual initiative provides no-cost medical, dental, vision and veterinary services to impoverished populations in North Carolina. Residents lined up as early as 4 a.m. to receive care from the military physician and his team.


Maj. Luisa Watts, staff pathologist at Wright-Patterson Medical Center in Ohio, may be the most important doctor you’ll never see. As someone who diagnoses serious diseases, she reviews a patient’s file while making a molecular determination of what could be causing a patient’s symptoms. She uses information doctors provide, along with reviews of biological materials and reference materials, in forming her diagnoses.



U.S. Army physicians serve all over the globe, and have unique opportunities to participate in humanitarian missions, wartime operations, and as evidenced below, some of the most well-known sporting events in the world.

(Army courtesy photo)


Former Army World Class Athlete Program physician Col. David Haight, left, had no idea of the essential role he would play during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

Haight was serving as the chief of family medicine and primary care sports medicine director at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, when he was asked to join Team USA’s march into Maracana Stadium. In his role as the primary care physician for the Olympic Village, he managed respiratory and gastrointestinal issues as well as mosquito-borne infections. And while most Olympic teams have physicians assigned to them, Haight got to help care for the triathlon team as well — something that he relished, as he is a former triathlete.



There are more than 6,500 medical officers in the U.S. Public Health Service. They may be mistaken for Navy doctors because of their similar uniforms, but their work is very different. These physicians work on the front lines of public health — fighting disease, conducting research, and caring for patients in underserved communities. Officers serve within federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as in military medical facilities. Some USPHS physicians also serve as doctors for the Coast Guard, which like the Marines, does not have its own medical staff.

(Courtesy photo)

Dr. Matthew Goers is a USPHS physician and calls himself a “disease detective.” He says he has known what he wanted to do with his life since he was 12 years old, when he would tag along with his mom, an ophthalmologist, on humanitarian trips to places such as Cuba and Kenya. He saw up close the difference that medicine can make in people’s lives and knew he wanted to be a part of that.

“Especially in Kenya, we got to visit local villages where she was working, and I do remember this one time I met this 12-year-old kid about my age who had yellow, kind of sclerotic eyes and was really kind of emaciated,” Goers recalled. “I realized I wanted to help, but that’s kind of a generic thing as a 12-year-old — but that’s why I went into medicine, because that’s the kind of work I wanted to do.”