“I enjoy not doing the same thing every day,” said
Capt. Gregg J. Montalto, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, who
has served the Navy in Asia and the Middle East.
“;at’s part of why I enjoy the military because I
never know what the day is going to bring.”
;anks to education funding from the government, military pediatricians don’t accrue nearly as
much medical school debt as a typical physician. ;e
trade-o; is several years in the service after graduation, whether they attended a military-run medical
school or not.
For some, early experiences in military life often
set the stage for their careers.
Col. Nicole M. ;omas, M.D., FAAP, figured she
might become a civilian pediatrician once she served
her required time. However, her early experiences
in Korea and Germany convinced her to stay in the
Air Force. Fresh out of residency in her early 30s,
she arrived at Osan Air Base in South Korea as a
pediatrician in a solo practice.
“It was awesome,” she said. “I
learned a lot, made great connections
and it helped to have a population
of pediatric patients. As a solo pedi-
atrician, I was able to care for them,
and it taught me how important it
is to have that relationship with the
family. I could take ownership of the
patient population, and it was a really
good experience for me.”
Capt. Montalto entered the Naval
Academy before he realized he want-
ed to be a pediatrician. When he was
a medical student, he appreciated the
chance to do an overseas internship
on a ship, taking care of active duty
soldiers, before completing a resi-
“One of the benefits I’ve seen now
that I’ve spent the last 15 years in residency training programs and teaching
is that a lot of interns go out on an internship and come back more mature,
a bit more independent and process
things a little di;erently,” he said.
Because the military is involved in some of the
most dangerous missions on the planet, military pediatricians benefit from hands-on crisis experience
that prepares them well for high-level academic and
For example, during one period, Col. Braun
served the Army in Germany, then went on missions in Moldova and Tanzania followed by several
months in Iraq during wartime.
“I can’t imagine a job as a civilian in which I
would be hired and allowed to do as many things
as a military pediatrician. And at a young age, too,”
said Col. Braun, who is chief of the Department of
Pediatrics at the Madigan Army Medical Center in
Tacoma, Wash., and a member of the AAP Section
on Infectious Diseases.
Col. ;omas, who oversees quality, credentialing,
risk management and patient safety for 76 military
treatment facilities worldwide, served in Central
America and South America. She also
saw the e;ects of war on children and
soldiers while at Bagram Air Base in
“It was hard,” she said. “Seeing
what goes on with war is very dif-
ficult but being able to take care of
people who were impacted by it made
a di;erence to me.”
Capt. Montalto’s interests in ad-
olescent health and natural disaster
planning were sparked by early-career
experiences, including assisting in the
aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Capt. Montalto said he learned
from Katrina that “without having a
group of dedicated people to work
with, it’s next to impossible to have an
impact.” After a few more opportu-
nities to serve in a similar way across
the world, Capt. Montalto pursued
a degree in global health policy. Recently, he was
director of medical operations on the USNS Mercy
hospital ship and helped representatives from four
Asian countries prepare for natural disaster response.
Military pediatricians need to remain flexible and
open-minded about missions that might come up
on short notice, Capt. Montalto said. ;e same goes
for their families.
“My wife and kids have the tougher job,” said
Capt. Montalto, who is an adolescent medicine
specialist at the Naval Medical Center in San Di-
ego and has five children. “My profession is always
rewarding, but it’s tough to be away from home. I
can’t stress enough that military families and kids
are tough. ;ey need to be.”
;at’s why military pediatricians are especially
attuned to the challenges of their primary patient
group — children of service members.
“Military children have special needs — their
parents can be gone for long periods and put in
dangerous situations,” said Col. ;omas, who shares
insights about the children with the AAP Section on
Uniformed Services. “I have a special place in my
heart for those kids.”
;e physicians’ views are not the views of the U.S.
Department of Defense or their particular branches
AAP Section on Uniformed Services, www.aap.org/
• A statement in the June article “How to
implement new peanut allergy prevention
guidelines” was incorrect.
;e sentence should read: ;e guidelines
suggest feeding 6-7 grams of peanut protein
weekly over three or more feedings.
• A statement in the June article “
Understanding vaccine precautions, contraindications”
;e sentence should read: Contraindications to DTaP administration include a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome occurring
within six weeks after a previous dose or an
unstable neurologic disorder such as uncontrolled seizures or progressive encephalopathy
until a treatment regimen has been established
and the condition has stabilized.
Infectious diseases specialist Lt. Col. Nicole Thomas, M.D., FAAP,
oversees quality, credentialing, risk management and patient safety
for 76 treatment facilities worldwide. Early experiences in Korea and
Germany cemented her decision to remain in the Air Force.
Col. LoRanée Braun, M.D., FAAP (far left), chief of the Department of
Pediatrics at Madigan Army Medical Center, takes part in Young He-roes, an event celebrating children with challenging health conditions
and their families.
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