2024 Military Service Award Recipient Hopes to Lead by Example in Service

Air Force Veteran Leticia Bland Empowers Others to Become Compassionate Providers

May 16, 2024

By Sarah Blugis

Leticia Bland, DHSc, MPAS, PA-C

From a young age, 2024 Military Service Award recipient Leticia Bland, DHSc, MPAS, PA-C, recognized the importance of education. Born into a family of migrant agricultural farm workers, Bland was working in fields at age 15, traveling with her family for seasonal jobs. A natural progression of her commitment to her education, she says, was enlisting in the military.

Working with a United States Air Force recruiter after high school, initially, she pursued clinical laboratory science. There, she found fulfillment in helping others. But after ten years, she was looking for deeper connections and the opportunity to make meaningful change. That, she says, is what interested her in the PA profession.

“Transitioning to becoming a PA, I was drawn to its holistic approach and direct impact potential. Now retired from the Air Force after 27 years, PA isn’t merely a profession, but an integral part of my identity,” Bland says. “I hope to lead by example in service and inspire others to know better and do better, fulfilling a calling I cherish daily.”

The Military Service Award recognizes a veteran or active duty PA who demonstrates exemplary healthcare service and exemplifies the PA profession’s philosophy of providing accessible, quality healthcare to current members of the military, veterans, or a medically underserved community.

Bland is a graduate of the Interservice PA Program, with more than 22 years of experience in family medicine, urgent care, emergency medicine, and trauma. She retired from the Air Force in 2016 with honors, in the rank of Major. Now, she is working to educate and inspire future PAs as part of the academic faculty in the PA program the UT Health School of Health Professions.

As an educator, Bland strives to shape the next generation of PAs by exposing them to service and experiential learning. By integrating community service with instruction and reflection, she hopes to enrich students’ understanding of patient care and civic responsibility—especially among vulnerable populations.

As a key team member for the School for Health Professions International Exchange Program, Bland takes interprofessional healthcare students to Bogotá, Colombia to learn how to make sustainable changes and advance medical care in resource-limited environments. She has also supported student-run clinics focused on homeless veterans, families in transition, and individuals struggling with mental health.

“This [approach to education] fosters a deep comprehension of community needs and cultivates compassion. Immersive experiences in real-world healthcare settings ensure their readiness to provide top-notch care, and carry on the teaching tradition,” Bland says. “It’s a gratifying journey that bolsters my commitment to service and motivates me to empower others in their quest as compassionate providers.”

Much of what has inspired Bland’s commitment to health equity is her own life experience. As a migrant farm worker, she faced subpar living conditions and inadequate healthcare assistance. This has led to her dedication to public service.

As a volunteer provider with the Texas Emergency Medical Task Force (EMTF), a regional response team, Bland helped to provide emergency care to communities in remote or rural areas, where access to care has been limited due to weather events, natural disasters, or a pandemic response. She is also a volunteer with Metro Health, providing free medical care to thousands of migrants. And that’s not all—Bland also volunteers as a preceptor for students in refugee and migrant clinics, homeless shelters, and substance abuse treatment centers in San Antonio.

“Service is the driving force behind my dedication to providing compassionate and patient-centered care to my community,” Bland says. “With these values as my compass, I am committed to making a positive impact on the lives of those I serve, honoring the legacy of my parents and upholding the trust placed in me as a healthcare professional.”

In addition to her roles as an educator and a volunteer, Bland also holds several leadership roles at the local, state, and national level. She has served on the PA Foundation Board of Trustees, is a member of the PAEA Education Programming Steering Committee, is a director-at-large on the Texas Academy of PAs Multicultural, Leadership, and Mentorship Committee, and more.

“As a firm believer in the strength of the PA profession, I emphasize the importance of teamwork and collaboration in achieving optimal health outcomes,” Bland says. “Together, we can continue to make a positive impact on the lives of patients and communities worldwide.”

Sarah Blugis is AAPA’s Internal Communications Manager. She can be reached at [email protected].

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