Academy doctor reaches out to Latino community


An Air Force Academy flight surgeon was the featured speaker at the Latino Community Luncheon in Colorado Springs March 9.


Col. W. Javier Nieves, chief of aerospace medicine at the 10th Medical Group, received his commission in 2000. Along with his Academy duties, he’s been a deployed flight surgeon during two deployments, stabilizing wounded service members for travel back to the U.S. for further treatment.   


“There is no more rewarding work,” he said to the group of about 70 at the lunch at the Hotel Elegante’.


Nieves discussed the logistics, cost and the stress of transporting a wounded service member through aeromedical evacuations, the Defense Department’s medical airlift program. Despite this, he said aeromedical Airmen would never choose another career.


“It is an honor to bring home the men and women wounded while defending our liberties,” he said.

Carmen Abeyta, one of the event’s organizers, invited Nieves to speak after meeting him at an earlier lunch.  


“It’s a big honor to have him here,” she said. “He’s Latino, he’s an M.D. -- it’s so awesome to see someone from our community in a high-ranking military position.”


Connecting with the Latino Community in Colorado Springs and representing the Academy’s cultural diversity was also a hot topic for Nieves as culturally-diverse events allow Airmen and cadets to connect with their community and help it understand the military missions in their backyards, he said.


“These are very important relationships we’re building,” he said.


Dr. Sonia Esquivel, a Spanish teacher and the officer-in-charge of the Academy’s Hispanic Heritage Club, attended the lunch.


“[Airmen and cadets] can integrate in the community, represent their own culture and share their experiences,” she said. “The community can see we have Latinos attending the Academy who hold on to their roots and identify with being Latino.”


The Latino Community Luncheons are designed to promote cultural awareness, networking and a sense of community among Latinos.