Westmont Magazine An Officer and A Doctor
Captain Chris Kurz ’97 logged 30 combat hours on C-130 flights during his 2004 deployment to Iraq. But the Air Force officer isn’t an aviator, he’s a flight surgeon. His task was making sure the airmen were well enough to fly safely.
“Pilots tend to fear the medical community because we can take away their ability to fly,” Chris says. “Their job is physically demanding, and they need to be sound. I worked to inspire trust so they would come to me with medical problems and understand that I just wanted to keep them healthy.”
Seeing pilots in their environment is an important part of caring for them, so Chris tagged along on combat missions. He also spent time serving at the base hospital in Kirkuk. His duties ranged from covering the small emergency room and treating victims of bombings to dealing with minor complaints such as diarrhea and sports injuries.
Chris played four years of college baseball and majored in biology. He thought about pursuing bio engineering but realized he’d rather work with people than computers. That’s when he decided on medicine.
Involvement in a discipleship group at Westmont taught Chris the importance of fellowship, of getting involved in peoples’ lives and being present to support them. “That was very life-changing for me,” he says.
The son of a career Air Force officer (his father died in 1993), Chris was commissioned after he graduated from Westmont. He attended medical school at UC San Diego thanks to an Air Force scholarship.
A desire to know something well led him to specialize in ophthalmology as a flight surgeon. Chris has finished the first year of a residency at Brooke Army Hospital and Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where he continues to care for soldiers injured in Iraq as well as retired service members. Brooke has a highly regarded burn unit, and Chris works with some of the patients there.
“I love studying eyes,” he says. “I love the physics of it, the light properties. Eye surgery is very fine and precise, and it’s rewarding to remove a cataract because eyes are so important to people.”
Chris’s wife is an Air Force nurse who plans to leave the service in 2007. “I have learned about the sacrifice that military members make,” he says. “They put their lives on the line, and they miss important family events like the birth of a baby. The personal sacrifices are huge.”