Flying at 18,000 feet and traveling at 400 knots, Dr. Jeffrey Woolford doesn’t have a typical doctor’s office.
Woolford, a United States Air Force lieutenant colonel, is one of the military branch’s few single-seat qualified pilot-physicians. He is also a Westminster High School graduate.
“I was able to take everything I learned here in Maryland and go out into the larger world and make a difference,” said Woolford in a recent telephone interview.
Woolford grew up in Finksburg and graduated from Westminster High in 1989. He said he became interested in enlisting in the ninth grade.
“I wanted to be a part of something larger than myself,” Woolford said. “I joined shortly after the first Gulf War started and it taught me the importance of serving a cause greater than myself. The Air Force made it possible for me to blossom and fulfill my potential.”
He recalls Linda Wheeler, a government and modern world history teacher at Westminster, as someone who was influential in his formative years.
“She treated us like young adults and taught us to think critically about complex social issues,” Woolford said. “She taught us that life is not clean, clear and crisp. It’s shades of gray, and it requires insight and self-reflection.”
Wheeler, now retired, remembers Woolford as being eager and excited to learn.
“He was very inquisitive and a very good critical thinker,” Wheeler said. “He was a goal-setter in high school and he talked to me about his plans for his future and a lot of that has come to fruition. He reminds me of what we think of a Renaissance man. He’s extremely learned and a very intelligent man. I’m extremely proud of him.”
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Woolford has been in uniform continuously since August 1989. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in professional aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1995; a Bachelor of Science in biology from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in 2005; and a Doctor of Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine in 2008.
He is also a graduate of the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and is a dual degree graduate from Johns Hopkins University, earning a Master of Public Health from the Bloomberg School of Public Health (2014) and a Master of Business Administration from the Carey Business School (2016).
His mother, Dot Woolford, of Finksburg, said she and her husband “are very proud of the man that he’s become and the way he goes after every challenge that’s out there.”
Woolford is stationed at the Ministry of Defence Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, England, assisting British allies.
“England is by far the most rewarding assignment I’ve had because it’s the first time I can merge my skill set as both a pilot and a doctor,” Woolford said. “In my previous jobs, I was either a pilot or a doctor, but this requires me to do both.”
Woolford flies with other pilots and records data like their cardiac responses and pulmonary responses. Under adverse conditions such as high altitude, traditional physiological responses can vary. His tests ensure the safety and welfare of pilots as they execute their missions.
“I fly a British plane and wear a British flight suit, but there’s an American flag on it so there’s a sense of pride representing our nation,” Woolford said. “It’s a privilege to represent the United States in the foreign military.”