Doctor finds military career immensely rewarding

CONTACT:    Randy Lescault



Aug. 3, 2015


By Gini Sinclair

   After a childhood accident that required a trip to the doctor when he was 12, Michael Alperin decided he wanted to be a doctor.

  “I was horsing around and cut up my leg pretty bad,” Alperin said, “the doctor came at me with a metal scrub brush and a tray full of instruments that made me kind of nervous. He stopped and talked to me, took the time to make a connection. I thought what a neat thing to do to put a kid at ease. I wanted to do that.”

  Alperin chose family practice as his specialty. Today he is a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and in his civilian practice works as clinical director, Primary Care Division, Department of Veterans Affairs, Portland, Oregon.

    During his high school years Alperin spent a year in Japan. When he attended college he wanted to study the Japanese language. During his sophomore year he had to declare a major.

 “I was in premed,” he explained, “but wanted to increase my knowledge of Japanese.  So I worked it out to where I could study both Japanese and premed.”

    Alperin graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a BA in East Asian Languages. He then attended Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, where he earned an MD in medicine in 1984. Since then he has earned an MBA in general management from Columbia University, New York, New York, and the University of California at Berkeley.  

  “The additional education opportunities in the Army have been extraordinary,” Alperin said. “I’ve attended various courses and programs, including General Staff College, War College that helped me develop as a more effective leader; these are opportunities you can’t get anywhere else.”

  Alperin said he has always felt a sense of personal obligation towards the military – perhaps because his father spent four years in the Navy. He thought about joining before going to college, but didn’t. Eventually he married and told his wife he wanted to join, but was looking at the Army Reserve because he enjoyed his civilian career. He is quick to point out, however, that his wife had “executive veto authority” over his decision to join.  He goes on to add that she had recognized his desire to serve was not impulsive but based on a genuine commitment to service.  Although she acknowledged that she would prefer that he not join, she supported him fully and continues to do so to this day.

  Alperin actively began looking at joining the reserves in early 1999, but later that year he became involved with a political action committee and focused on helping the community. At the end of two years with the PAC Alperin determined to join the Army and decided to revisit the recruiting station. Ironically he was prepared to contact them on September 11, 2001. After the events of that day Alperin put his call off until Thursday thinking the recruiters might be fully occupied with other matters. Six months after contacting his local medical recruiting station Alperin became a member of the Army Reserve.

     “It was always in the back of mind to join the Army,” Alperin noted. “I wanted to give back to my country by using my medical skills to help Soldiers who were hurt or ill.”

     Alperin had the chance to help out here at home when his unit did readiness training in Louisiana. He provided primary care to the community of Ferriday. He spent a couple of weeks there, his unit working with Navy personnel.

  When he went home from that experience he felt he would like to be more involved with the type of experiences the Army Reserve offered him. Alperin said he never thought of it, but his wife suggested he apply for a job with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

  “I wished I had thought about it earlier,” Alperin noted. “Being a member of the Army Reserve gave me a unique and value added perspective for my job with the VA.”

  Alperin has spent more than 13 years in the military, working in various positions in the 396th Combat Support Hospital, Vancouver, Washington from 2002 until 2011. He served as the brigade commander for the 8th Medical Brigade, Staten Island, New York, from March 2012 until June 2014. He took command of the 804th Medical Brigade in Devens, Massachusetts, until January 2015. In January he became commander of the 3rd Medical Command, Atlanta, Georgia.  Currently he is deployed to the Middle East where he command the 3d Medical Command (Deployment Support) Operational Command Post (Forward) in Kuwait.

   During his career in the Army Reserve Alperin has been mobilized four times and deployed overseas three times. He served as a primary care physician at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan from October 2006 until February 2007. In December 2011 Alperin returned to Bagram Air Field as a special assistant to the Combined Joint Task Force-1/Regional Command-East Surgeon, headquarters, CJTF-1/RC-E.

  Today, along with his role as Clinical Director and Service Chief in the Primary Care Division, Portland VA, Alperin serves as an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine.

  “In retrospect,” Alperin said, “knowing what I know now I wish I had joined [the military] long ago. This is immensely rewarding, working with fellow Soldiers, civilians, members of the other services, and international partners, all committed to service.  It’s a great way to give back to a country and a community of people with shared values.  It has been a unique opportunity to work as a member of a team in so many different environments, and to step into leadership roles with responsibilities and opportunities not found elsewhere.

 “The beauty of the United States Army and all of its services is it’s all of America,” he said. “It didn’t occur to me there was this tremendous bond that develops because you all have committed to the same goal of service to one’s country.”

  For more information about a career as a health care provider in the U.S. Army or Army Reserve go to

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