AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES --
Inspired to join the Air Force by her grandfather, Senior Airman Kadaija Hill, 380th Expeditionary Medical Group physical therapy technician, explored her options while looking for ways to fund her goal of becoming a doctor.
However, her recruiter said she would not be able to get a medical job, according to Hill.
“…So I kind of told him that if I didn’t get a medical job I was going to college,” she said. “Maybe a day or two later he called me and told me I had a medical job, which was physical therapy. Coming in at 18 years old hearing that there is a 50% drop out rate, I was kind of frightened by it, but I knew it was something I wanted to do in the medical field because I love helping people.”
After completing basic training, the Georgia girl with a big smile, went to Join Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas for technical training.
“The training was a lot, Hill said. “So I was at Fort Sam Houston for about four months, we had clinical-practical exams and test exams about three exams a week … and you only had a chance to fail two. It was a lot of work, a lot of caseloads, but I’m happy I went through it.”
Stationed at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., having served on active duty for four years, but currently deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, she is a part of a two-person PT team.
“Our mission is to help people,” she said. “If one person is down it can affect the whole mission, so just making sure everybody is physically prepared to do the mission because all of us play a huge role into the mission.”
On average, the PT team has about 10-15 patients per day, which includes in-clinic and those they see through their squadron outreach program. 380 EMDG Physical Therapist Maj. Rita Sircar-Valdez, explains the support the two-person team provides for Team ADAB.
“Given that there is only one physical therapist and one physical therapy technician on Al Dhafra Air Base, the demand for therapy services is high while the supply (PT clinicians) is limited,” she said. “Thus, in addition to her [Hill] primary job of treating patients with musculoskeletal conditions, she is the “gatekeeper” to the clinic, the first person an individual makes contact with within the Physical Therapy Clinic.”
Hill also fulfills roles which in a typical civilian office would be delegated to additional personnel.
“… Her other roles include making sure the PT Clinic has all the supplies it needs to execute top-notch care,” Sircar-Valdez said. “She is also our clinic’s infection control monitor, an especially important task during this COVID-19 era. SrA Hill continues to look for ways to improve processes, delivers care with professionalism, and is vital to the success of the PT Clinic.”
Although deployment demands for the team are high, Hill has an internal purpose that fuels what she does.
“I love helping people, just seeing people going from stage one to maybe stage five is great,” she said. “I know for me, like a post-op patient fresh out of surgery, I know how they were before and I want to get them to where they have full-range of motion, able to get to do their jobs without any limitation. Just seeing the happiness on their face and knowing I made a difference in their life…it makes me happy inside knowing that I’m helping people.”
One of the biggest lessons Hill learned through working with PT patients is also applicable outside the clinic walls.
“A lot of people go through different things in life, so if they come in mad, don’t take it personal, just understand that people have different stressors in life,” said Hill. “Just make sure you’re there to help the patients. I know when you’re in pain, you’re not just going to be the happiest person, but I know you’re just going through a phase…always be nice and always be kind. Don’t let other people’s attitude rub off on you, just keep being your general, happy self.
While deployed, Hill has continued to pursue her goal of becoming a doctor.
“My future goal is to become a pediatrician,” she said. “I truly love kids. That is my ultimate goal. I am currently a senior at the University of South Florida and I’ll be graduating in December with my degree in health science. I will be applying to the commissioning program, enlisted to medical, next year to get me started on the doctor route, so I’m super excited about that.”