Honoring veterans at the UF College of Medicine
Students, faculty and alumni discuss their service and altruism ahead of Veterans Day
Nov. 7, 2022 — One attribute shared by all members of the University of Florida College of Medicine community is a passion for helping others. Our learners, trainees, faculty, staff and alumni exhibit their commitment to service every day — a commitment shared by members of the United States Armed Forces.
From treating fellow soldiers for heat illness in the Florida summer to triaging 11 wounded after a deadly 4 a.m. helicopter crash, the experiences of the veteran members of our UF College of Medicine community have left a lasting impact on the high-quality, compassionate care they provide.
In honor of Veterans Day on Nov. 11, we recognize students, educators and alumni who have dedicated years of their lives to service in the armed forces.
Jim Norris, Petty Officer First Class, U.S. Navy
First-year medical student James “Jim” Norris enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 2010 to combat terrorism. He served on active duty until late 2017, completing three deployments to Afghanistan, Peru and Panama, before joining the Navy Reserve for three years.
When he first enlisted at the age of 20, Norris said he was directionless. But after becoming part of the Navy SEAL community, he learned to funnel his efforts into something worthwhile: aiding others. Norris’ first exposure to medical training came from combat medicine classes taught to sailors. After completing active duty and meeting his future wife, Mary, who was then applying to physician assistant school at Tufts University, Norris was inspired to apply his altruism to the medical field.
“When you’re in the military, you have a support system; you feel like your job has meaning,” he said. “And then it’s difficult to find something like that in the civilian sector. But after really evaluating what I wanted to do, being a doctor seemed like it most aligned with my values. In the military, the intent is to help people — to do something that’s going to benefit others. I think that aligns really well with medicine.”
Marcus Hanshaw, Sergeant, U.S. Army National Guard
First-year medical student Marcus Hanshaw was always interested in joining the U.S. Army, especially as a high school JROTC member growing up in Lakeland, Florida. His father was a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, and like his paternal grandfather before him, Hanshaw became a combat medic in the Army after enlisting in 2010 and earning his emergency medical technician license.
“I thought it would be interesting to work in medicine and help people that way,” he said. “It ended up being a good choice.”
Teaching deploying units lifesaving combat medicine — like tying tourniquets and performing needle chest decompressions — and rescuing fellow soldiers from the brink of heat stroke in sweltering Florida summers was rewarding for Hanshaw. These experiences motivated him to pursue medical school through the U.S. Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program, where he will go on to complete his residency training with the military branch and serve another four years as a doctor and an officer.
“I’m very thankful for my time in the military as a medic and as an EMT in Central Florida for showing me how much of an impact you can make on others,” he said. “My hope for the future is that I’ll be able to continue to serve my country and help my peers … I would like to make a positive difference in military medicine and on mental health stigma as well.”
Ramon Ramos, Specialist, U.S. Army National Guard
When first-year physician assistant student Ramon Ramos joined the U.S. Army National Guard to find a way to pay for college, he did not know the experience would be a catalyst to pursue a career in health care.
But over his six years of service, Ramos found himself as a health care specialist assisting in all sorts of missions. Some days, he would work as a field, range or clinic medic. Other days saw him helping out with anything from dispersing supplies to coordinating an influx of out-of-state troops during deadly hurricanes.
“This was the first time I ever did anything medically related, and it started me on a journey to get to where I am today,” he said. “The medicine and lessons I learned through the military are something I use every day.”
Now, as an aspiring PA, Ramos said his service with the National Guard taught him he can accomplish his goals by continuing to move and embrace challenges. When school is difficult, instead of losing motivation and feeling defeated, he persists to become a provider who will help those facing anything from a runny nose to a traumatic injury.
Aaron Saguil, M.D. ’99, M.P.H., FAAFP, Colonel, U.S. Army
For UF College of Medicine alumnus and department of community health and family medicine chair Aaron Saguil, M.D. ’99, M.P.H., FAAFP, commissioning in the U.S. Army remains one of the best decisions of his career.
Saguil knew in the 10th grade that he wanted to become a physician. While attending Duke University for his undergraduate education, he obtained an Army ROTC scholarship to cover the cost of tuition and went on to complete medical school at UF, where he was drawn to the versatility of family medicine for residency. Saguil’s military service as an Army physician included helping save 11 lives after a deadly helicopter crash in Afghanistan and working as an associate dean for regional education-San Antonio for the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine to become chair.
“The military taught me many things about myself and others: the ability to persevere, the need to constantly self-educate, the need to pour into others and the virtues of optimism and flexibility,” he said. “I’d like to think that I am role modeling these traits among our department members and learners. I hope to help others impact lives for the better.”
Kimberly P. Toone, M.D. ’97, M.P.H., Captain, U.S. Navy
As a young girl growing up in Plant City, Florida, Capt. Kimberly P. Toone, M.D. ’97, M.P.H., learned that with the right support and a bit of toughness, there are no limits to what you can do. The 2017 College of Medicine Wall of Fame inductee has exemplified this success throughout her 29 years of service with the U.S. Navy.
After being commissioned in December 1993 and graduating from medical school at UF in 1997, Toone completed a pediatrics internship, family medicine residency and aerospace medicine residency program with the Navy. She has served as a flight surgeon, senior medical officer and executive officer through multiple deployments and humanitarian aid/disaster relief missions around the world, including deploying with the hospital ship USNS Mercy over the summer as part of Pacific Partnership, the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Toone has also coordinated medical support for all Naval Aviation assets on the east coast of the continental U.S. as the force surgeon for Naval Air Forces Atlantic.
“It’s a great honor to be recognized for the work I’ve done with Navy medicine for sailors and Marines throughout my 20 years of service,” she said after her 2017 Wall of Fame induction. “It’s exceptional that UF recognizes a career such as mine, which is outside the typical realm of clinical or research work.”
In September, Toone began her new assignment as Commanding Officer of Navy Medicine Operational Training Command, which trains health care professionals and military personnel in lifesaving medicine and is headquartered in Pensacola, Florida.
“It is very rewarding with the experience the Navy has provided me in over 20 years of active duty to be able to guide the education of those now using that experience and to return the benefits that I’ve received to the next generation,” she said.