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Med group Airman goes above and beyond

  • Published
  • By Glenn S. Robertson
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

How to save a life

When the bone marrow donation registry was promoted across F.E. Warren in June 2021, Mighty Ninety Airmen signed on with the hope that they might make a difference in someone’s life – or even save a life.

One of those Airmen did not hesitate when the swab was handed to him to add his information to the national registry of potential donors.

Staff Sgt. James Steven Bryant not only placed on the registry, he was also asked to donate bone marrow to help save the life of a veteran – and he followed through.

“The Department of Defense marrow donor program supports the Be the Match national program, meaning that someone on the registry can be called to donate to personnel associated with the DoD as well as civilians,” said Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Silvis, local coordinator for the Be the Match program. “What Staff Sgt. Bryant did by registering and donating is remarkable and selfless, and it shows the character of who he is as an Airman.”

At any given point, there are 6,000 people in the U.S. waiting for a bone marrow match, according to Silvis, but matching recipients to donors can take a long time.

“Typically, many wait a long time to be asked to donate and some never get called,” said Bryant. “My situation was unusual in that I was asked to donate just a few months after having joined the registry.”

When he received the call on Veteran’s Day 2021 that he was a match, Bryant was told that it was the fastest match that the technician who called had ever seen. His match was a 66-year-old veteran with myelodysplastic syndrome.

Though the match was quick, there were complications and bumps in the road before he was sent to Rochester, New York, for the procedure. It is a painful process, but it was something that Bryant was willing to undergo to help someone in need.

“I knew that she had been in a lot more pain and would be for a lot longer than I would be and without the transplant, she very likely would have died,” said Bryant. “Two weeks of recovery was worth it to help someone.”

Bryant’s decision would take him out of his workspace for several weeks, but his leadership was fully supportive of the decision to donate and saw it as an example of him leading from the front.

“We didn’t know he was going to get matched to be a bone marrow donor but being selected and going through with the donation speaks volumes to his character and his willingness to serve others,” said Capt. Edward Garces, Bioenvironmental Engineering flight commander. “Being a bone marrow donor has its risks, but if he can save a life, then he’s going to take that risk. It’s evident in his everyday work ethic and leadership style, and this is just another example of him setting a great example for those around him.”

Prior to this experience, Bryant would receive some good news that would promise to propel his Air Force career forward and upward in a major way.


Hard work pays off

Bryant is also making positive waves in his workplace through his hard work, effort that has earned him a place in the Interservice Physician Assistant Program, a 29-month, two phase program that includes 16 months of academic study followed by 13 months of hands-on training at a military medical treatment facility. 

He will be beginning the program in August at Fort Sam Houston, Texas in August 2022. Bryant was chosen for the program through a very selective process designed to ensure the most qualified candidates.

“This unique multi-service opportunity is open to enlisted members and officers from any career field within the Department of the Air Force to include the Space Force,” said Col. Melanie “MJ” Ellis, Physician Assistant Associate Corps Chief. “We typically have 200-300 people start the application process. Of those, approximately 200 submit their applications, with 120-130 actually meeting the board to vie for only 35-45 seats. This is a highly competitive program seeking the best and most qualified applicants.”

For those he works for and with, there is little surprise that Bryant is charging toward his dreams.

“I’m incredibly proud of him getting selected for IPAP and I could not have recommended a more qualified and caring individual for the program,” said Garces. “I am confident he is going to make an outstanding Air Force officer, and a great physician assistant. I know this has been a lifelong dream of his and I’m just excited to be part of the process.” 

IPAP has been a goal for Bryant since joining the Air Force in 2015 as a Bioenvironmental Engineering Technician. Though the AFSC was not his original choice due to not being involved directly in patient care, he was enthusiastic about the diverse nature of the career field and the opportunity to remain in an AFSC associated with medical care.

“Most individuals selected for IPAP come from a medical AFSC,” said Bryant. “My focus was to excel at the job I had while keeping my eye on the prize of IPAP.”