Surgeon by Day, Pilot by Night

“They take my situation into consideration, for example, when handing out shifts”. Illustrative Photo Surgeon by Day, Pilot by Night

Once a week, Major Lior puts on his flight overalls and arrives at the squadron. Illustrative Photo In two days, Chief of General Staff of the IDF will present ribbons of excellence to reserve duty officers, as a part of a week of appreciation for the Reserve Duty Formation. Among those honored will be Major Lior, a pilot at least once a week and a Cardiovascular surgeon the rest of the time. “Flying is a part of my bloodstream”

Lya Shanel

There are mothers who dream of a pilot son and those who dream of raising a doctor, but it is reasonable to believe that the mother of Major Lior, 38, a father of three children of his own, never dreamed of having both.

Between long shifts as an intern in the Cardiovascular Department at Soroka Medical Center and spending time with his family, Major Lior makes sure to save time for his squadron, the “Bat”. Every week, he shrugs off his surgeon’s coat, zips up a flight overall and takes off on an F-16 Fighting Falcon to a variety of exercises and missions. No one knows how, but he somehow racks up almost 60 reserve duty days of service a year.

Now, he will receive a ribbon of excellence in reserve duty from the Chief of General Staff. A moment prior, we sat down with him for a conversation, and attempted to understand how one is able to achieve so much with only 24 hours a day (Hint: “You learn to make do with less sleep”).

So how do you combine a demanding career and reserve duty?
“Combining a career and reserve duty demands much hard work on both fronts”, began Major Lior. “It also requires a spouse that supports you fully, because at the end of the day, the family pays the price. Fortunately for me, my wife backs me completely.
Of course I also have the support of my workplace at Soroka. They work with me and are understanding, even though no one else performs reserve duty the way I do. For example, when shifts are given out, they make sure that I have one day a week to fly without being on-call the night before. They contribute to my ability to follow through on my commitments, and it definitely requires a little more attention and consideration in the already busy life of a hospital division”.

How are you treated as a reserve duty serviceman in the squadron?
“When I’m with the squadron I’m part of the group. Some of the soldiers don’t even know who’s in reserve duty and who’s not…It may not be my regular work place, but you live this job all the time, even when you’re not there. It’s an ongoing commitment. Every day there are phone calls and conferences that you need to participate in: You’re still an inseparable part of the squadron.
They help me and take into consideration the fact that I have shifts. At the end of the day, it works to their advantage that I’m also the squadron’s doctor”, smiles Major Lior. “When someone’s child is sick, they know they can call me up at one o’clock at night for advice, and I’m always available for everyone”.

Why is it important to you to continue flying?
“I could’ve stopped or taken it down a notch, like many of my peers, but it was very important to me to continue to contribute. Beyond the contribution, I also receive a lot; I enjoy the unique working environment of the IAF and the quality of the people. Right now, I don’t see any reason to stop flying-I’ve been doing it for 20 years, and at this point it is a part of my bloodstream”.

How does your family deal with all of this?
“Without the help of my wife, Noa, I wouldn’t be able to do it all. But for the kids, it feels natural. They’re used to me being in the army sometimes, just like they’re used to my shifts at the hospital. They actually get excited about it-sometimes my younger son goes to bed with the squadron’s book, just to look at the pictures”.

And we’ve got to ask…What does your mother think?
“My parents are very proud of me, but every time there is an article on the news about the IAF and its missions, that pride melts into worry. There’s probably an age at which you’re supposed to stop worrying something will happen to your kids in the army, but there’s nothing that can be done. At the end of it all, I’m a pilot and a cardiovascular surgeon, and my wife’s a lawyer, so you can actually say that it’s a dream come true for a Polish mom”.