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York College grad seeks new challenge in the U.S. Air Force Reserve

Jonathan Trager pictured with sign that says always with honor

Jonathan D. Trager ’05 was interested in the military from a young age. Growing up in Montreal, Canada, many of his TV stations were broadcasted from Vermont. He would watch advertisements for the Air Force and fondly recalls the ads depicting airmen and aircrafts on duty while displaying the slogan, “Aim High–Air Force.” He had always been interested in the military and its history, especially World War II and the Vietnam War, and could often be found perusing books and encyclopedias to learn more.

Life took him on another path, though: medicine. At the age of 16, while attending junior college and university in Montreal, he started doing volunteer emergency medical services as an EMT in his community. He wanted to advance his prehospital skills and knowledge and in 1998, he moved to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for paramedic training at the Williamsport Hospital and Medical Center. He met his wife, and, with employment authorized in his field of training, got a job with White Rose Ambulance in York in 2000.

“I moved down and then decided that it was time, while I was working as a paramedic, to re-do my sciences,” Jonathan says. “It was stuff that I needed a refresher on to apply to medical school.”

Time in York and beyond

By the time he ended up at York College of Pennsylvania, Jonathan had already had plenty of experiences in the medical field. He was also newly married and slightly older than his peers at about 25. He says his life experiences helped him navigate tougher courses. He graduated in 2005 with a BS in Biology. “It was nice because it wasn’t cutthroat,” Jonathan says. “It was a very supportive, friendly environment.”

Jonathan then went to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, graduating in 2009. He completed his Emergency Medicine residency at Temple University Hospital followed by a fellowship training in Critical Care Medicine at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ. At this point, he had two children and two dogs. After completing training, he found a job with St. Luke’s University Hospital in Bethlehem, PA, practicing both emergency medicine and critical care medicine. In addition, he became the Medical Director for St. Luke’s Emergency and Transport Services and their Critical Care Transport program as well as a flight physician with Geisinger Life Flight.

“I later decided that I wanted something new to do,” he says. “I was looking for a new challenge and opportunity.”

Finding passion again in the Air Force

Jonathan decided he would find the challenge he was looking for in the Air Force. His decision was bolstered by a friend and fellow York College graduate Jim Lantry, who is also in the Air Force Reserve.

“Jim and I are very good friends, so we’re always in touch,” Jonathan says. “He’s pretty much one of the people who was sort of decisive in guiding me along. I sort of follow his path to a certain degree.”

Following Jim’s path meant getting commissioned as Major in June 2019. With formal officer training at Officer Training School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama complete, he will focus on his upcoming training to become fully qualified as a physician with the Critical Care Air Transport Team at the 514th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. His job will consist of moving wounded soldiers and contractors from one point to another, often overseas and back to the U.S.

He hopes that he’ll be deployed and have the opportunity to increase his operational tempo. Working on the plane, C-17 Galaxy, means he’ll have a hands-on role treating patients. Instead of nurses handling day-to-day operations as is usual in the hospital, Jonathan will be doing bedside care of his patients with his team, a critical care nurse and respiratory therapist. He sees it as enhancing what he did as a paramedic.

“There’s an entire other world of people in the Air Force who have an unbelievable wealth of knowledge and experience,” he says. “I’m hoping this will enhance my being.”

Jonathan says one of his biggest motivators is that “you only live once, so you must make every moment count–no regrets.” This belief is what prompted him to attend York College as an older student and to join the Air Force Reserve well into his career.

“A lot of people get discouraged by the fact that you’re going to have loans, but I think if you absolutely want to do something and enhance your life and skillset you just have to do it,” he says. “One should never look at age as a restricting factor to doing things.”