Meet Erik Baldwin
Regional Director of Accreditation, Regulation, and Licensure, and Major in the United States Air Force Reserve
Erik Baldwin has served in the United States Air Force Reserve for the past 23 years, starting as a medical lab specialist in 1993 and currently serving as a major within the Chief Strategic Medical Plans Division at Defense Health Headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia. He is attached to an active duty Air Force unit and has deployed to Germany, Operation Katrina Relief, Belize, and many areas across the United States.
Erik joined Kaiser Permanente in 2006 as a laboratory supervisor and was soon promoted to the senior manager in charge of the Regional Laboratory. He started his current role, regional director of Accreditation, Regulation, and Licensure, in 2011 and works in the Regional Office in Rockville, Maryland. When not working at Kaiser Permanente or meeting his military obligations, Erik enjoys spending time with his family in beautiful, historic, and hip Leesburg, Virginia and the surrounding areas.
Joining the military was always on his radar:
“I come from a long line of Army service so joining the military was always on my radar. My grandfather served in WWI, all my uncles served in Vietnam, my father served, and my brother and sister-in-law are currently serving in the Air Force. I also learned through Ancestry.com about a relative who served as a captain in the Revolutionary War. He sold his farm to pay wages to his troops.
I always planned to join the army as well and was ready to sign up at 17 but under age 18 recruits need their parent’s approval to join under what’s called a deferred enlistment. My dad wouldn’t sign unless I talked with the Air Force recruiters, so I did, and the rest is history. I’ve been with the Air Force Reserves for the past 23 years.”
The military reserves helped drive his civilian career path:
“I joined the military partly to pay for college but I also wanted to travel, to wear the uniform, and to be a part of something bigger than myself. What I didn’t expect was how well it prepared and positioned me for success in my civilian career at Kaiser Permanente. When I enlisted at 17, I initially wanted to go to nursing school so I pursued that field in the military and was able to secure my first role as a lab technician. That experience inspired me to study Laboratory Technology at college and helped me land my first job as a lab supervisor at KP. When I because a commissioned officer in the Air Force, I drew on my leadership skills and training to move into hospital administration and land my current role.”
He’s humbled by the emotional strength people draw on under extreme pressure:
“When I was stationed at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, we were moving patients from an aircraft to an ambulance using a litter, which is like a cot with no legs carried by four soldiers. Some of the patients on this particular flight were badly burned so they had close to 200 pounds of equipment on their chest for the intensive care unit (ICU). A female soldier asked to take my place carrying one of the ICU patients and wouldn’t take no for an answer even when I warned her of the excessive weight. I found out the patient was her cousin and I was shocked. She was so calm and in control. My brother is also in the service and I don’t know if I could have kept it together if I met him under those circumstances, but you never know. I just hope I never have to face that challenge.”
He’s president of the Mid-Atlantic States KP Veterans Association:
“I’ve been president of the Mid-Atlantic States chapter of the KP Veteran’s Association for the past three years and I’m proud to be part of the team responsible for reforming it in 2013. We’re a pretty active chapter, supporting multiple organizations and events in the Mid-Atlantic States area including the Army Ten-Miler charity run, Family Support Groups Maryland, Operation Homefront, and the United Service Organization (USO). We also support the Veterans Stand Down on Veterans Day in Prince George’s County, Maryland, which is our biggest event of the year. The Prince George’s County event has no budget to support the event so they rely 100 percent on volunteers and donations. We have a lot of veterans in the area, many of whom are homeless, and the stand-down provides showers and hot meals, much needed medical attention, and access to other critical resources such as legal advice, housing assistance, VA assistance, and a variety of other services. KP provides flu shots, optometry and podiatry services, and more. We are also focusing a lot of our efforts on helping veterans find career opportunities at KP. In 2015, we attended every job fair in the D.C. metropolitan area.”
Advice for Transitioning Veterans Interested in Kaiser Permanente’s Opportunities
“Take advantage of all the resources out there, such as job fairs, networking events, and classes on resume writing and interviewing skills. Also, never underestimate the value of your military skills and experience, especially leadership training. You may have served as a lab tech in the military, but your responsibilities extended far beyond those of a lab tech in the civilian workforce. So take stock of all that military training and experience and use it to your best advantage. And you can take advantage of Kaiser’s free Military Skill Translator if you need assistance.”