Aiming High with a Dual Career

You won’t find Gabe Wood, BHS, RRT, barking orders at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital in his role as a respiratory therapy educator. But if put him on an airfield, this U.S. Air Force Reserve technical sergeant will be confidently leading soldiers in lighting the runway and wiring complex electrical systems anywhere necessary.

Always curious, Wood received extensive training to become an electrician in the Air Force all while attending University of Missouri–Columbia to become a respiratory therapist. Coming from a military family, this was all in a day’s work of discipline, service and dedication.

As a technical sergeant, Wood performs highly complex technical duties in addition to providing supervision and career development for his subordinates. This leadership experience carries over to his respiratory therapy educator role at Ranken Jordan.

“I always wanted to do something useful and I like the two different types of jobs I do,” Wood says. “In the military, I’ve learned leadership skills that I apply to my job at Ranken Jordan. The military teaches you to keep a clear head and to adapt to changing situations. That’s similar to Ranken Jordan where everything is always changing and kids have complex needs so you have to stay calm and adapt. But I have to switch attitudes from military to civilian at Ranken Jordan. The chain of command and processes are quite different.”

He adds that his electrician background also helps with the technical side of ventilators and other medical equipment that many patients at Ranken Jordan require.

Over the past 10 years, Wood has worked at Mercy Hospital as a respiratory therapist in the neonatal intensive care unit and pediatric intensive care unit. He also taught students at St. Louis College of Health Careers before he came to Ranken Jordan in December 2019. He became the respiratory therapy educator in May 2020.

“I wear many hats as an educator,” Wood says. “I onboard new respiratory therapists, and educate nurses, medical staff, child life specialists, recreation therapists and any other health care providers who interacts with our patients on ventilators. I also provide caregiver training. My job is to teach the team how to keep kids safe when they are out of their rooms on a ventilator.”

Wood is also co-chair of Ranken Jordan’s Emergency Response Team. He is responsible for preparing Ranken Jordan team members for emergencies and identifying where more training and education is needed.

Answering the Call of Duty

As an Air Force reservist, Wood participates in ongoing training and always stands ready to serve where he is needed. Over the past 12 years, he has been deployed three times to the Middle East. Now he is preparing for his fourth overseas deployment in January. Currently, he is in predeployment training at Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County, Illinois.

Wood will be gone six months but plans to return to his role at Ranken Jordan when he gets home.

“I grew to love Ranken Jordan and will miss the kids,” Wood says. “Working with them is very satisfying and you get close to them because they are often in the hospital with us for long periods.”

This deployment may be his most difficult yet because he will miss one child in particular—his toddler son. “I have a different mindset this time,” Wood says. “Thankfully, I will be able to video chat with my wife and son while I’m gone.”

As any good leader does–whether military or civilian—Wood has been preparing his Ranken Jordan team for his absence. He created a comprehensive document to leave behind to show what needs to be done weekly.

The Sky is the Limit

Wood’s drive in his professional life is mirrored in his personal life.

“When I do something I go all in and learn all I can about it,” he says.

Practice and training is his mantra, no matter what he attempts. And it pays off.

Three years ago, he picked up his first golf club at age 25 and now shoots about a 77 on 18 holes. That’s only about 10 shots more than a golf professional. To improve his game, he worked part time at a driving range so he could practice.

Then at age 28, he followed a lifelong desire to take piano lessons. He practices nearly an hour each day and now plays the piano so well that he has been asked to play at weddings.

Always a coach and leader, Wood even puts his 18-month-old son on his lap to begin to teach him how to play the piano. With Wood’s discipline and drive, he may just have a Mozart in the making.

We salute you, Gabe Wood. We appreciate your service and look forward to your safe return home.