PNWU: An Oath and an Ovation

"You’re going to put yourself in harm’s way, but you’re living for something much higher than yourself when you put on that uniform.”

By PNWU | @ PNWUHealth, Jul 19, 2018

No matter how hard he tries to fight it, Dr. Brandon Isaacs still gets choked up every time he delivers the Oath of Commissioned Officers at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences Military Promotion Ceremony.

“23 years ago, when I stood in the same place those students now stand, I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” Isaacs explained. Today, he can’t imagine his life had it not been for that moment.

To this day he proudly carries the wings he received as a United States Air Force Flight Surgeon. Holding them, he recalls the deep seeded trust that Air Force fighter pilots — who have sat before him in cockpits around the world — placed in him to not only keep them alive, but to keep them in that seat.

“The flight surgeon instills confidence in the pilot in the simple fact that the pilot knows they have their back,” explained Isaacs. “They’re willing to die for what they believe in, and as a flight surgeon, my job was to ensure they didn’t die so that they could continue to believe that way. I’d do anything to keep their plane in the air, defending the freedoms they believe in so deeply, and they knew that.”

On Saturday, May 19, Dr. Isaacs commissioned ten new PNWU graduates — the University’s largest Health Professionals Scholarship Program (HPSP) group ever — at PNWU’s Military Promotion Ceremony, held in Yakima, Washington’s historic Capitol Theatre. As he completed the final lines of the Oath, the audience erupted in a standing ovation, honoring the sacrifices of the students who stood before them.

“As soon as you graduate from medical school, you immediately put on the bars of Captain in the Army or the Air Force, or Lieutenant in the Navy,” he explained. “In doing so, you outrank over 95% of all of the military personnel in the world. You have a responsibility to oversee these enlisted personnel or junior officers who you now outrank, and you have an obligation to the mission of what the military stands for: to protect our freedoms at any cost.”

Military physicians such as Dr. Isaacs and the ten students who graduated on Saturday are a crucial line of defense in ensuring that that mission is accomplished, putting themselves in harm’s way to preserve the health and wellbeing of those fighting for that very freedom. Dr. Isaacs has seen the faith that his fellow soldiers place in doctors like him time and time again, witnessing firsthand their willingness to sacrifice themselves to ensure that he is okay.

“They don’t make those sacrifices for themselves,” he explains, “but because, ultimately, they know that I am responsible for not only their safety, but the safety of their buddies.”

He credits the faith that his fellow soldiers place in him to his own commitment to protecting the freedoms he has believed in for so long.

The shelves of his home are lined with years of aeronautical literature, from the the earliest test pilot stages of fighter jets all the way through the documents on the latest innovations taking place at the Skunk Works. In fact, from the moment he assembled his first model airplane at the age of ten— a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird — his goal in life was to one day be a fighter pilot.

When undergraduate pilot training classes were shut down just before he was eligible to enter, Dr. Isaacs decided to become a physician so that he could ultimately serve as a flight surgeon.

“I called the Air Force an hour after I got my acceptance into Des Moines University and said, ‘I’m in, now let’s talk about a scholarship.’ That’s how I got into the HPSP, and I’ve never looked back.”

Since that phone call, Dr. Isaacs — who is now the Colonel and the 124th Medical Group Commander for the Idaho Air National Guard — has attended Air Command and Staff College and Air War College, completed Commission Officer Training, participated in Combat Casualty Care, served four humanitarian missions, been deployed multiple times, investigated aircraft accidents at the level of Thunderbird crashes, and even served as the team physician for the U.S. Military’s International Wrestling Team.

On Saturday, May 19, as he completed the final words of the Oath of Commissioned Officers, he fought back tears as looked upon the ten PNWU graduates who were now beginning the journey that has given him so much. Now commissioned, they had taken on the massive burden of not only supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, but also caring for every service member who swore to do the same.

“It’s is a heavy lift,” said Isaacs, reflecting on his own commitment, “but it is an honor to carry that weight. You’re going to put yourself in harm’s way, but you’re living for something much higher than yourself when you put on that uniform.”

“The military affords you so many growth opportunities that you just don’t have access to otherwise,” explained Isaacs. “There is an expectation in the military that I work to make all of our students aware of, and the Promotion Ceremony is culmination of that effort. I try to push our students to see it as an opportunity and not an obligation. If they do that, the sky is the limit for what they can accomplish.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Learn more about Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, a Yakima Valley Pippins partner, at

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