WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE. Missouri --
Whiteman Air Force Base is home to some of the most ground breaking and advanced aviation technology in the world. It’s also home to some of the world’s sharpest Airmen.
U.S. Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Joseph “Vandal” Sharp, 509th Medical Group flight surgeon, earned the Air Force Global Strike Command “Air Force Flight Surgeon of the Year Award” for innovative ideas, techniques, and dedication to dynamic patient care.
“The award focuses on the rapport you have with your pilots, the impact you have on the mission and the Air Force as a whole,” Sharp said.
Air Force flight surgeons complete specialized training at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to learn about the special requirements and challenges of aerospace medicine. Sharp is also flight certified and uses his experience in the cockpit to more accurately diagnose his patients and create a closer bond with his pilots.
“The flight experience allows you to get a better of understanding of the stressors involved with flying,” Sharp said, “And it helps us get out of the clinic and get one-on-one time with the pilots so we can get to know each other better.”
Sharp is the only physician on the installation to offer osteopathic manipulation, a hands-on practice that involves diagnosing and treating patients muscle and joint injuries through targeted stretches, pressure and resistance.
The physician also integrated innovative treatment options that now keep B-2 Spirit pilots fit and on flying status. Sharp introduced the use of inversion tables, which place patients in an upside-down position to reduce pressure in the spine. This allows 393rd Bomb Squadron pilots, who spend long hours seated in the cockpit of their stealth bomber and T-38 Talon trainer jets, to manage some of their musculoskeletal issues and without any side effects.
To provide care to an elite cadre of stealth aviators, Sharp is on-call any time of day or night.
“The 393rd, those are my guys,” Sharp said. “Everything I do is to make their lives easier, I don’t want them to worry about medical situations popping up… They need to keep focused on the mission.”
Growing up, Sharp said he felt he had a calling to help others, leading him to study medicine and joining the military. He started his journey earning a selective Air Force scholarship that sent him to medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
“For me, medicine was another way to take care of the people I care about, and what I naturally fell into,” Sharp said.
“You just need to care. When it comes down to it, you genuinely need to care and act on it.”