Military Service PA of the Year
Lt. Col. John F. Detro, SP, PA-C, MPAS
PA Advances Medical Care and Profession in Army
Lt. Col. John Detro is a highly decorated Army PA and the recipient of the 2018 AAPA Military Service PA Award. He has spent his life serving his country and the PA profession, transforming medical training for the U.S. military and elevating PAs in the Army.
AAPA’s Military Service PA Award honors a veteran or active duty PA who has demonstrated exemplary healthcare service to his or her community.
An Unintended Life of Service
Detro never imagined himself as having a career in the military, but his parents say they always knew he would end up in the Army. Now, Detro cannot imagine having taken another path.
“It’s great to have a career where every day you feel like you’re serving others,” he said. “Every day you get up you have an opportunity to do something for someone else.”
Detro first enlisted in 1987 and served as a Combat Medical Specialist for nine years before going on to graduate from the Army PA Program. He has deployed to the Middle East seven times and has won countless medals for his service, including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Valor Device, two Army Commendation Medals for Valor, and three awards of the Purple Heart.
Improving Military Medical Care
In 1999, Detro was assigned as a PA to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Benning, Georgia. The regiment was reviewing its medical training after experiencing high causalities during a recent deployment to Somalia. The deaths could have been prevented, but the soldiers lacked the medical training to properly treat the injuries.
Detro worked with his fellow Rangeral medial personnel to overhaul the training and create life-saving instruction for the Army Rangers. Soon after, the remaining branches of the U.S. military and even militaries from other countries began to implement this medical instruction into their own training programs. Today, the U.S. military is still using the methods Detro helped develop.
“Anybody that has an injury that could survive with the right treatment in the Rangers has survived, and a lot of that is because of the training,” Detro said. “It’s good to know I had a small part in that.”
Advancing PAs in the Army
Detro now serves as the commander of the 187th Medical Battalion and as the PA consultant to the Army Surgeon General. As a consultant to the Surgeon General, Detro provides guidance on the implementation and management of PA training.
He says that PAs have become the face of Army medicine to soldiers and are leaders within their units, but have fewer opportunities for upper-level leadership positions compared to other providers. Detro hopes to change this and demonstrate how PAs can be valuable to the armed services at every level.
“I really enjoy representing the rest of the Army PAs and giving a voice to them,” Detro said. “We’re focused not only on what are we doing today as PAs, but where we want the profession to go in the future.”