By Staff Sgt. Victor J. Caputo, 24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 27, 2018
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) --
A Special Operations Surgical Team member was recently elected to the board of the Special Operations Medical Association.
Maj. Regan Lyon, 720th Operations Support Squadron SOST emergency medicine physician, was named board member at-large on the board of directors, where she will be involved in the multiple projects and SOMA committees.
“Having this opportunity to sit on the board and influence operational medicine, which is truly what I feel is what I was meant to do, is an absolute honor,” said Lyon.
Special Operations Surgical Teams are highly trained medical professionals with the skills and equipment to fully function in austere and complex environments, providing advanced combat casualty care within minutes of a sustained injury, saving lives and providing psychological stability for the warfighter.
A long time coming
Lyon decided in high school that she would become a doctor. She never once thought about going into a civilian practice, however, considering she split her childhood between her father, who retired from the Air Force shortly before she was born, and her mother, who served on active duty during Lyon’s childhood and teenage years before retiring.
She began her educational journey at Texas A&M University in 2002 and decided to specialize in emergency medicine during medical school. Lyon went to the Air Force’s flight medicine course during medical school given her interest in operational medicine. After residency, with flight medicine and emergency medicine training and her interest in operational medicine, she became the flight doctor for the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Pope Field, North Carolina. While at Pope, she volunteered to fill a spot as the flight surgeon and medical director for pararescuemen in the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron; it was on this deployment that she had her first direct experience with a SOST.
“I was with (the SOST) for almost 14 days, out in the middle of nowhere, and we brought our own electricity, had no running water and I thought it was the most awesome thing ever,” said Lyon. “It was everything I had ever dreamed of and more.”
Upon her return from the deployment, Lyon was determined to join a SOST and dropped every career plan she had been working on. She discussed her plan with her peers, superiors, and mentors, and reached out to anyone who could help make her dream reality, and finally landed it as her follow-on assignment out of Osan Air Base, South Korea.
After reporting to the SOST, Lyon hit the ground running and deployed with her team overseas within a year of arriving at Hurlburt Field and completing her additional training.
“I know that I’m doing all the training for a reason, and (after) going on the deployment and experiencing the things I did, I know the training is beneficial; it’s not just training to train,” she said. “It was (during this deployment) that my team started to realize we were truly (revolutionizing) in military medicine with the things we were doing with very limited resources.”
The wealth of experience and knowledge Lyon brings to her team played a huge part in their success while overseas, increasing both the team’s and patients’ confidence in their skills.
“On our last deployment, we only had one day that we saw no patients,” said Maj. Marc Northern, 720th OSS SOST surgeon. “Maj. Lyon worked tirelessly every day, with constant dedication to her patients. Her confident ability to calmly lead patient triage in the most chaotic environments, including 31 mass casualty events and 53 emergent walking blood drives, and to assist with numerous surgical procedures was a force multiplier critical to the entire team's success in saving lives. I had complete confidence in her patient evaluation, her resuscitative skills, and her technical ability to perform rapid invasive procedures.”
Even beyond her technical expertise and level-headedness in the face of life-or-death situations, it’s Lyon’s heart that truly sets her apart.
“Her selection to SOMA board is very well deserved,” said Northern. “Her endless compassion and dedication to her patients in the most strenuous of circumstances demonstrate the highest qualities of her character, and she has the selfless leadership skill and motivation to continue to pursue the progress of special operations medicine. The SOMA board will find her knowledge and experience in combat casualty care to be both extremely relevant and valuable.”
According to their website, SOMA is the only medical association in the world that brings together a unique blend of pre-hospital, tactical, wilderness, austere, disaster and deployed medicine. Their goal is to advance the art and science of special operations medical care through education and professional development of special operations medical providers, while providing a forum for military and civilian medical providers, academia and industry from around the world to meet and exchange ideas.
Lyon has been a SOMA member since her time with the 21st STS, but recently decided to jump in the fray by becoming a board member. She put together a nomination package, submitted it and pushed the elections out of her mind until she received her voting ballot and saw the competition.
“I thought, ‘I am literally making a joke out of myself by putting my name in the hat,’ but okay, we’ll see in a few weeks,” she said. “I’m just ecstatic that I’m getting the experience right now. My plan is to stay involved with special operations medicine as long as possible, or as long as I’m relevant.”
Her member-at-large position gives Lyon a platform that reaches outside of the Air Force medical world, allowing her to learn about practices and theories with her counterparts in the other U.S. military branches in addition to civilian medical professionals while passing on her unique, cutting-edge experiences.
“Regan’s contributions to trauma medicine have been recognized on the world stage,” said Northern. “At a recent trauma and vascular surgery conference in Europe, her publications and contributions were lauded multiple times. Military and civilian providers from numerous European, Asian, and African countries are building on her unique operational experiences. The placement of (the Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta) as an Emergency Physician for hemorrhage control is a model for how civilian trauma teams could function in the civilian environment.”
Northern claims the international community recognizes the merit of Lyon’s achievements and how she is an example of teamwork making the difference in life-or-death situations.
“She has brought cutting edge medicine to the most remote places in the world, and has saved the lives of hundreds of her patients,” he said.
Lyon views her role with SOMA as a natural extension of her life’s work, providing her the opportunity to give back to her community.
“I’m doing what I feel I was born to do and what really makes me tick,” she said.