Major Karen Salyars, PA-C

When asked why she loved being a PA in the Air Force, Major Karen Salyars, PA-C, says it’s because she loves “caring for those who serve our country.”

Maj. Salyars always knew she wanted to serve others. When she graduated from PA school in 2003 as an Army PA, she was immediately deployed to Iraq. After a second deployment during the early months of her daughter’s life, she decided that continuing serving in the Army wasn’t the best option for her family. Maj. Salyars left the Army in 2007 and practiced in dermatology and family practice for a few years. However, she felt something was missing. She still had the desire to serve her country and to “be a part of something bigger,” so she joined the Air Force, where she has proudly served since 2010.

Maj. Salyars now works in flight medicine and is the commander of a flight medicine clinic in Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. In addition to managing the day-to-day operations of the clinic, she also treats between 45-50 patients per week. The patients at this clinic include “flyers” – anyone who is part of the aircrew of the C-5 and C-17 aircraft on Dover AFB. This particular set of patients is required to undergo “more rigorous physical exams because of their positions,” says Maj. Salyars. For example, “if they’re experiencing dizziness, they can’t fly.” It’s her job to ensure the flyers can safely carry out their duties. “We have to make sure to dig deep, perform thorough exams and uncover any underlying, chronic issues that may be causing superficial symptoms to keep them at their best.”

In her 17 years of service to the Armed Forces, Maj. Salyars has valued serving others. As a PA in the Air Force, she says she “especially loves seeing patients who are retirees and vets. They have such amazing stories, and to be able to care for someone who served this country and their families is an incredible honor.”

In addition to her important role in the clinic, Maj. Salyars is the president of the Society of Air Force PAs (SAFPA) and a former instructor at the Interservice PA Program (IPAP), where she has had an impact on many future PAs. One recent graduate says Maj. Salyars exhibits all of the qualities of an exemplary PA and has been a true model of the kind of PA she wants to be. “Her dedication and compassion that she puts in to patient care and teaching are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to who she is as a PA and as a person,” says former student Laura Fuller, PA-C. “She is who I strive to emulate as I go forward in my career as a PA.”