Back to Top Skip to main content

USAF doctor strives to advance women leaders in military medicine

Photo of Dr. Yun U.S. Air Force Col. (Dr.) Heather Yun, Deputy Commander for Medical Services, is an infectious disease physician playing a critical role in BAMC’s COVID-19 response. Yun, is a fourth-generation doctor who has tackled many roles over the course of her career – student, doctor, mentor, leader, wife, mother, singer, and endurance triathlete. (Photo by Jason Edwards)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Women's Health

Air Force Col. (Dr.) Heather Yun is the epitome of being in the right place at the right time. Less than a month after she became the newest leader on the command team, Yun found herself perfectly situated to help shape Brooke Army Medical Center’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

Coincidence or just good fortune, the new deputy commander for medical services at the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston facility also happens to be an infectious disease physician, a specialty that’s accustomed to scrutinizing the globe for potential viral outbreaks and devising ways to contain them.

“I was fortunate to be in the command suite early on with the expertise and opportunity to ring those early warning bells and help put the pieces in motion,” Yun said.

Yun first became alarmed in January after reports emerged of a growing viral threat overseas. By the time it reached the U.S. via a traveler from Wuhan, China, later that month, Yun was already advocating for a forward-thinking and fast-moving plan to help protect the hospital’s staff and patients from the intensifying viral threat.

Collaborating with leaders across the organization, Yun helped form teams to tackle everything from personal protective equipment supply to medications to testing protocols. In March and with a national emergency declared, BAMC began implementing key aspects of that plan, to include a screening and testing site in the parking lot, curbside pharmacy and a delay in elective procedures.

Upon graduating from Yale University’s Medical School with support of an Air Force Health Professions Scholarship, she became her family’s fourth generation doctor and first Air Force officer. Her father had served in the Army and three of her four grandparents were Army World War II veterans, including a grandmother in the Army Nurse Corps.

Yun recalled how her grandfather, also a physician, had an above-the-knee amputation from a childhood infection, but was intent on serving. “During the war, you could get a waiver to serve as a physician if you had a below-the knee-amputation; he wanted to serve so he said his amputation was below-the-knee. No one checked until much later when it was time to come home again.”

Ingrained with that same determination, Yun moved on to a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in infectious disease at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. “I was fascinated by infectious disease; it’s a field that’s constantly challenging and ever-changing,” she said. “It also crosses over every specialty so we have tremendous opportunities to help a wide array of patients.”

“In ID, we obtain the story, the patient history that no one else gets,” Yun said. “We investigate to find the link between what is going on and what caused it.”  

In 2007, Yun moved with the infectious disease mission to BAMC and in her 20-year careers she has steadily climbed the ranks, serving most recently as the chief for the Department of Medicine before taking on a deputy commander role. When Yun isn’t leading the five major departments that fall in her leadership lane, she’s in scrubs conducting COVID-19 patient consults in the intensive care units and mentoring the infectious disease fellows at BAMC. Mentorship is a topic that’s always been near and dear to her heart, she said.

“I had amazing mentors and sponsors, both men and women, who supported me throughout my career,” she said.

“Over the years, I’ve had younger women tell me that it’s been important to have someone senior to them whose life looks like theirs.”

While the military has come a long way regarding females in the higher ranks, Yun sees more progress to come. To foster mentorship, Yun led the “Women in Medicine” program at BAMC for three years and helped pilot a coed military medicine mentorship program for physicians. Most recently, she became the command liaison for the new Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Navigating and integrating the challenges of work and home life hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been worth it. “I had to learn to have grace with myself, and to lean on my faith, my family and my colleagues,” she said.

“I just hope that when women look around the current landscape, they see strong leaders of every gender, race, ethnicity and background and, most importantly, their own potential.”

You also may be interested in...

Army SHARP/SAPR’s awareness creates a safe culture at JBLE

Article
9/25/2020
Image of teal ribbon against soldier's uniform

Remaining on guard against sexual harassment/assault despite pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Sexual Assault Prevention

USU Task Force addresses nutrition and lifestyle’s role in resiliency

Article
9/24/2020
Woman cutting a steak on a plate, with corn

A personal protective lifestyle (PPL) and nutrition (PPN) could be your key to resiliency in the face of COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Coronavirus

PSNS Hospitalman consistently steps up to meet the mission

Article
9/23/2020
Man wearing a mask in an office environment

The ‘Rad Health’ program is cited as the ‘gold standard’ by Naval Sea Systems Command and BUMED audits.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Georgia soldiers donate CCP in the fight against COVID-19

Article
9/22/2020
Man wearing mask, giving blood

[C]onvalescent plasma transferred to a patient still suffering from the disease could help speed the recovery process.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Convalescent Plasma Collection Program

Air Force master ordering facility streamlines medical supply process

Article
9/21/2020
Military member in warehouse, packing a large box

To date, the Air Force master ordering facility in Port San Antonio has supported 26 Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces embedded in 24 civilian hospitals.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Trump Administration Releases COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Strategy

Article
9/17/2020
Soldier getting flu shot

Detailed planning is ongoing to ensure rapid distribution as soon as the FDA authorizes or approves a COVID-19 vaccine and CDC makes recommendations for who should receive initial doses.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

MHS immunization experts will answer questions about flu vaccine

Article
9/16/2020
Soldier giving another soldier a flu shot

Real-time Facebook event set for 3-4 p.m. EDT Sept. 17

Recommended Content:

Immunizations | Preventive Health | Public Health | Coronavirus

Former BAMC COVID-19 patient now CCP donor

Article
9/16/2020
Man donating blood

When someone contracts a virus, that person’s immune system creates antibodies to fight the virus.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Convalescent Plasma Collection Program

New communications tool rolled out on MHS GENESIS

Article
9/15/2020
Three men, wearing masks, looking at a computer screen.

Through e-Visits, providers address questions, concerns virtually.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | MHS GENESIS

Suicide impacts us all – but there is help!

Article
9/14/2020
Man at sporting event kissing his wife and baby

September marks Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention | Coronavirus | September Toolkit

Wildfire smoke wreaks havoc on respiratory and immune systems

Article
9/11/2020
Picture of a military tent; an orange, smoky hue surrounds the tent and soldiers

State and country health advisory alerts on diminished air quality have been posted and shared to alert local populations.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus

From Ghana to Washington, Sailor provides leadership during COVID-19

Article
9/10/2020
Female soldier with mask

Acquiring supplies, in general, has been a hurdle worldwide.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Readiness

Thirteen years ago Ft. Knox prepared for outbreak scenarios

Article
9/10/2020
Front page of newspaper

Some of the preventive measures that surfaced from the 2007 exercise included the wearing of facial coverings, regular sanitizing of surfaces and social distancing by such means as teleworking.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Public Health

JHIEs give providers better access to patient information

Article
9/8/2020
Man looking at X-Ray

The joint HIE securely connects DoD, VA, U.S. Coast Guard and hundreds of other select federal and private sector partners with patient health and benefit information data.

Recommended Content:

Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization (FEHRM) Program Office | Electronic Health Record Modernization & Interoperability | MHS GENESIS | Joint Health Information Exchange | Coronavirus

DHA encourages women leaders through Federal Women’s Program

Article
9/4/2020
Navy Rear Adm. Mary Riggs greets Army Maj. Angela Hinkson

What are the right tools for successful women leaders?

Recommended Content:

Women's Health
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 21

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.