Clinic’s New Doctor: From Firefighter To Flight Surgeon To Family Practice
Posted on Friday, August 19th, 2011
Paul Nioce, M.D.
Paul Nioce, M.D., the hospital/clinic’s new physician, can be forgiven should he feel out of uniform.
Until now, the uniformed services have dominated his career.
After five years as a professional firefighter in Topeka, Kansas, and three years as a U.S. Air Force flight surgeon, in July he took his first job as a civilian doctor.
“Getting dressed in the morning used to be easy. Lately, I’ve had to buy more clothing and start thinking about what to wear,” he said.
Dr. Nioce moved from Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, with his wife, Lisa, and the couple’s six children.
“I’m glad to call Marietta my new home. I plan to be active here. It will be nice to serve the community,” he said.
The mix of opportunities at Mercy Health/Love County attracted him.
“I came here for the versatility of the offerings. There’s a little of everything for me to do: clinic, hospital, and emergency room,” he said.
Nioce, 38, is no stranger to the Sooner state. He completed his medical internship at St. John Hospital with the OU College of Medicine in Tulsa from 2007-2008.
“When it came time to find a job after the military, I already had my Oklahoma medical license but also a liking for Oklahomans. They are good people.”
He is “almost half” Pottawatomi from the Prairie Band.
Nioce graduated from high school in Topeka. At age 19, he joined the volunteer fire department in Silver Lake, trained as an emergency medical technician (EMT), and was quickly drawn to the medical aspects of emergency response.
From 1995-2000, he worked fulltime as a firefighter in the Topeka Fire Department.
He received a meritorious award for heroism in the line of duty for assisting in the rescue of a woman trapped inside a blazing home.
Nioce earned a business administration degree from Washburn University in 1999.
At a career crossroads, his wife encouraged him to begin the journey toward medicine.
“She saw better than I what my leanings are. She’s an R.N. She knew what doctors’ lives are like. We could talk about medical things. Medical school would be a struggle for her, as well. I couldn’t have done it without her.”
Following three years of pre-requisite science courses, Nioce entered the University of Kansas medical school in 2003. He graduated with the M.D. degree in 2007.
During his first year in medical school, Nioce joined the Air Force. Though in his 30’s and with four children, he knew that he wanted to serve in the armed forces.
“I would have regretted not serving in the military,” he said.
With the 38th reconnaissance squadron, he was deployed to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, in support of both Iraq and Afghanistan missions.
Reconnaisance flights gather radio and electronic data emanating from the countries below.
Captain Nioce alternated clinic days on the ground with flights aboard various aircraft to study the occupational demands of lengthy (12 hours) and high altitude flights on the various personnel.
“We were interested in learning the demands of the different crew positions and the effect of injuries and medications on their ability to do their jobs. It helped us know how soon it was safe to return someone to flight status,” he said.
On his initial tour of Mercy Health/Love County, Nioce said he heard a familiar refrain among coworkers, “We are like family here.”
His own family’s hobbies include fishing and the outdoors. They expect to be busy in church activities.
At home at Falconhead Resort are Lily, 13; Paul Anthony, 11; Sam, 9; Cecilia, 7; Mira, 5; and Helena, 1.
“I like to instill in my kids the idea of having a daily adventure, seeing something new in nature or just driving down a different road. We’re going to explore all of Love County and southern Oklahoma and northern Texas,” Nioce said.