2017 Tillman Scholar

Johnnie Gilpen

University of Oklahoma
M.M.S., Physician Assistant Studies

“I can honor my fallen brothers by working as a physician assistant in community health care.”

Inspired by his family’s military legacy, particularly his grandfather’s service during World War II and his father’s service in Vietnam, Johnnie joined the military. He first served as a helicopter crew chief in the Oklahoma National Guard, then as a U.S. Navy Fleet Marine Force Hospital Corpsman. Through these experiences, he came to appreciate what it means to be part of team, dedicated to a purpose much large than one’s self. As a Corpsman, he found his passion in medicine. His experiences providing medical care for Marines, Sailors, and locals during deployments made him realize the need for more primary care providers. Johnnie believed that he could make the greatest impact in primary care as Physician Assistant (PA). After leaving the Navy, he set his sights on becoming a PA, while continuing to serve his country as a disaster response epidemiologist and medic at the local, state, national, and international levels. After years of preparation, his dreams have been realized.

As a PA, Johnnie plans to work within the VA healthcare system; he wants to be a transitional conduit for veterans as they move from the military to the VA. With compassion and empathy, he hopes to provide quality care to his fellow veterans and bridge the gap in trust between patient and provider to improve health outcomes among patients.