In celebration of Memorial Day, meet ORA Orthopedics Physician Assistant Bradi Kipper. Bradi shares the story of his military service as Captain in the Army National Guard, the importance of family and friends, and the joys of helping patients in the Quad Cities.
Meet ORA Orthopedics Physician Assistant: Bradi Kipper
Hometown: Moline, IL
Years at ORA: 7 years
Title at ORA: Physician Assistant
Branch and rank of Military Service:
I am a Captain in the Illinois Army National Guard
My wife, Amanda, and I have known each other our entire lives. We are both from the Quad Cities. Our grandparents were best friends! Somewhere there are pictures of us in the crib together. We have 3 boys, twins Isaac and Owen, and Liam.
I joined when I was 24 years old. I initially spoke with a recruiter because my dad fired me. I was working with him at the time, but I needed to get back into school to work towards my life goal of working in medicine.
I have been in the military for over 11 years now. I started as a combat medic with a field artillery battalion.
After I was in for a couple of years, I realized that I was much better suited to impact my unit positively as an officer. I went through the accelerated commissioning program, achieved the rank of 2LT (Second Lieutenant) and applied to Physician Assistant school.
Describe your role in the Guard.
I currently serve as the Battalion Physician Assistant or MEDO (sounds like “meadow”) for an Engineer Battalion. I supervise the medical section, all of its combat medics, manage their training requirements, manage the medical supplies for the battalion, and I also serve as a specialty branch advisor for the Battalion Commander.
I also have requirements to maintain my physical fitness, weapons qualification, and my own medical certifications to maintain.
I currently perform my role as a military provider one weekend per month and also during our annual training over a 15-day period. Sometimes this includes a day before or after. Sometimes I do a 4-day or 5-day “weekend” training event. But in all, it usually works out to be one weekend per month.
Other duty assignments pop up depending on who/what is needed. If something needs done, you do it. That is how the military works. If you need to step up to complete a mission/task, then it is expected you do that. You learn very quickly how to be adaptable in the military and overcome what appears to be an insurmountable obstacle.
What have been your most memorable or proudest moment(s) in the service?
I know it’s a cookie-cutter answer that several active service members use, but honestly, every day is a proud moment serving my country. I joined the military initial out of selfish reasons, I wanted to get into medicine. I stay in because I am proud to serve my country.
You gain a certain perspective that is not reproducible anywhere else in this life. There is a sense of pride and purpose being in uniform, knowing you are looking out for the person on your left and right, and they are doing the same for you.
Every time you achieve a new promotion or new duty assignment, it is never just because you did your job well. It is because the support structure around you has succeeded.
Watching my kids grow up, teaching them what it is to serve your country, teaching them what it means to sacrifice for something greater than yourself, teaching what it means when they hear stories about soldiers dying in combat, those moments are very impactful.
How do you juggle the demands of the Guard, your family, and your career?
NONE of it would be possible without the people around me. I could not do what I do without a supportive wife. Amanda is the reason I succeed.
It takes a lot of time, especially when you are in a leadership role, to be in the national guard. The time away from home, the time spent on the phone with your soldiers, the always-impending threat of deployment, these stressors are always there. Without a good support structure of family, friends, and understanding employers, it would be difficult.
Also, they get overlooked a lot, but your neighbors truly play a big role as well. When I have to leave, they are ready and willing to help out with whatever is needed. They mow grass, get mail, bring a beer over, lend an ear, lend a hand, and all the above when needed.
Do you have an unique perspective and appreciation for the military and their sacrifices?
I don’t think you truly grasp the concept of sacrifice until you lose someone close to you to in war. Someone you went through basic training with, someone you joined with, someone in your unit or your section. When this tragedy occurs, you never forget. You never lose sight of what is at stake. You truly understand what it means to give your all.
Every war movie, every TV show, even the TV commercials that are related to the military hit you a little bit because now you know.
I was in training to be a combat medic and was enjoying a weekend off. I was reading the Army Times and saw a small ad in the paper about training to be a physician assistant. I ripped the article out of the paper, placed it in my Bible, and began working – with the help of my wife – on getting into the program.
Once in the program, my second year was my clinical rotation phase. When I began my 8-week rotation through orthopedics in my second year of the program, I immediately fell in love. I felt like it was active medicine: Put that bone back in place. Reattach that tendon. Take that infection out.
Orthopedics was one of the areas of medicine that just came naturally to me. Everything just clicked. And, to top it off, I had a lot of fun doing it.
What inspires you most about your patients?
Probably the most impactful moment in treating patients is when they fully understand what is going on with them. Hearing them thank you for explaining something in a way they can understand is truly rewarding.
Knowing that you are getting through to patients and they finally grasp why they are having issues or why they have to follow restrictions or how things work inside their bodies really means a lot.
It’s so rewarding to see their progress through difficult times. Whether it be after surgery or after a really bad fracture, seeing them go from painful and agitated to happy and grateful for their care, is really cool.
What piece of advice do you wish your patients would take to heart?
Smoking is really that bad for you! It isn’t just something we say. It truly changes what you look like inside. It slows healing, damages cells permanently, increases your risks of bad stuff happening.
We tell you to stop smoking because we care about you, NOT because we are mean. We are people too. We don’t like being jerks. We want you to have the best outcomes possible.
Would you encourage others to pursue a career in the Guard, or in medicine, or both?
Undoubtedly, I would recommend a career in both, but medicine is not for everyone. Some people just truly cannot stomach it.
But being in the military, if you are able to join, I would absolutely recommend it. Serving in the military is eye-opening. It is hard, at times, but the sacrifice of leaving home and serving your country in another fashion gives you and appreciation for what it means to be an American.
I have not deployed, though. I cannot speak to what it is to go through that ordeal. But I know that even the service we perform for our home states in the National Guard is life-changing.