Face of Defense: Airman Thinks Big to Provide Better Patient Care


Being the lowest-ranking active duty airman in the small clinic at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, does not stop Air Force Staff Sgt. Kaitlyn Callahan from exceeding expectations to deliver the best patient care.

Then-Air Force Senior Airman Kaitlyn Callahan, 341st Medical Operations Squadron physical medicine technician, poses for a photo in the clinic at the Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, clinic.
Then-Air Force Senior Airman Kaitlyn Callahan, 341st Medical Operations Squadron physical medicine technician, poses for a photo in the clinic at the Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, clinic, July 12, 2017. Now a staff sergeant Callahan was selected as one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2017. Air Force photo
Then-Air Force Senior Airman Kaitlyn Callahan, 341st Medical Operations Squadron physical medicine technician, poses for a photo in the clinic at the Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, clinic. Malmstrom Clinic
Then-Air Force Senior Airman Kaitlyn Callahan, 341st Medical Operations Squadron physical medicine technician, poses for a photo in the clinic at the Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, clinic, July 12, 2017. Now a staff sergeant Callahan was selected as one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2017. Air Force photo

As a physical medicine technician, Callahan knows she plays an important role in getting her fellow airmen back in the fight, and she looks at the big picture for ways to improve her clinic’s capabilities.

“Many patients come into our clinic with back pain and other issues related to improper running form,” Callahan said. “I helped develop and launch a few programs to help airmen build their core strength and understand proper running form. This includes things like gait training and cool-down techniques to prevent injury.”

Improving Efficiency

Callahan’s ability to find innovative ways to expand the reach of the clinic’s physical therapy service made a big impact on the clinic and their patients. Not only did she treat nearly 7,000 patients in one year, she had oversight of two flight safety programs and 14,000 medical records reviews, improving the clinic’s efficiency and quality.

“For me, it is all about the patients and finding better ways to deliver care,” she said. “Improving how the clinic runs its programs makes such a big impact on the staff and, most importantly, the patients.”

Dedication to her patients drives Callahan to go above and beyond her assigned duties, managing a large caseload despite a labor shortage at her clinic. But her workload never gets in the way of her focus on the patients.

“Seeing a patient improving is what really motivates me,” she said. “I always strive to go out of my way for my patients. I want them to feel good about being in our clinic, and that they can trust me to give them to tools they need to be successful advocates for their own health.”

Callahan said she is able carry out the “trusted care” principle of continuous process improvement because of the team she works with, relying on her teammates to improve efficiency and implement programs.

“I value my team’s input and encourage them to express their ideas,” she said. “Together, we are able to come up with better ways to implement work improvements.”

Callahan’s care for others goes beyond Malmstrom’s clinic doors. She also volunteers aiding disabled children and served as an honor guard member.

Her focus on delivering patient-centered care and upholding the principles of trusted care led to her selection as one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2017. She was promoted to staff sergeant in January and said she is eager to take on new leadership roles.