Col. Victor Palomares, U.S. Army Reserve, has a slightly different perspective than most primary care physician assistants.
“Some people have never been in a vehicle roadside explosion with all of their buddies — the dust, the smell. I’m able to relate. I realize the Fourth of July might not be the most fun holiday to experience,” Palomares said.
Palomares, who will retire in May from the Army Reserve after 30 years of service, has been a PA at UCHealth’s Loveland Family Practice for the past six years. Before then, Palomares put his medical career on hold for about five years because he was called to multiple tours of duty; his last tour in Iraq ended in 2010.
“When I first got back, I had a readjustment stage to be with family and friends,” he said. “Then I was recognizing that from the soldiers coming back who came in to see me as patients. I understand what they are going through. It makes it easier to communicate with them — to shake their hand or to hold it.”
For his dedication, service and personal sacrifices, Palomares received the Red Cross Armed Forces Award at the American Red Cross Heroes Soiree on Feb. 26.
“Victor exemplifies what the words ‘service’ and ‘sacrifice’ mean — to me he’s a hero,” said Colorado Rep. B.J. Nikkel, who nominated Palomares for the award. “Because of his sacrifices, it made me much more aware of what many of our National Guardsmen/women sacrifice as they are called to full-time duty overseas in times of war, in service of their nation.”
Palomares said he hopes his recognition encourages others to step forward, help and be available to the next generation — whether as a medical professional, a soldier or both.
“There are a lot of people with more experience than I have,” he said. “To come forward and say, ‘I can share my experience and knowledge with these younger guys,’ that’s what I hope comes from this award.”
Palomares’ careers in both the medical field and the military were built on his desire to give back. He joined the military in 1986 after getting his bachelor’s in biology. He saw it as a way to give back to a country that had given his migrant family an opportunity to leave Mexico and work toward a better life that included education, he said.
After serving active duty as a chemical officer, he returned to his home in Denver, completed his medical training and started his career in the Denver area. But in 2005, he started being activated so often as a reservist — by this time he was a medic — that he put his career on hold. Then in 2010 he joined UCHealth in northern Colorado.
With UCHealth, Palomares continued with his Army Reserve duties as a medical educator, teaching on a monthly basis.
“It’s important that [Army medic] students see what clinical medicine is about and not just learn classroom medicine,” he said. “It takes some of the fear away from what they will see and be exposed to.”
And when his military career ends in a few months, Palomares said he will continue to teach what he knows through opportunities at UCHealth.
“I think I’ll get even more involved in teaching,” he said. “I want to continue that trend and open my door to other physician assistants and nurse practitioners.”