Front and center screen: A young woman in military fatigues is in charge, giving orders to groups of service members in a command center. Confident and no-nonsense — she is clearly a leader.
Patel, a graduate of Detroit Mercy and a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, was asked to take part in the marketing campaign, designed to show what the Army has to offer to those who may not have considered a career in the armed forces.
“The army has professional scholarship programs, which is a way to get funding for anything that you want to do in the U.S.,” Patel said. She attended basic training before completing medical school, and started her military career.
“If you graduate medical school as a civilian, you have to apply for a residency which is challenging, especially for a foreign graduate applying,” Patel said. “In the Army, I don’t have to worry about that. The system is pretty incredible. All I have to do is put my best foot forward and do what I need to do.”
She graduated as a pediatric physician in 2009, as the U.S. involvement in the conflict in Afghanistan was rising.
Patel’s family came to the United States from India when she was 14. Her father, a college professor in India, was unable to find work at a university in the United States.
“He always told us that education is the way to get ahead,” Patel said. When time came to pick a college, Patel said “something spiritual drove me to pick Detroit Mercy. The small classrooms are run by gifted and talented professors, who give you one–on–one attention.”
It was through one of these professors that Patel was able to complete an undergraduate fellowship, while she earned her degree in Biology.
“A professor I worked with in a lab suggested the fellowship with Pfizer. I don’t feel as if I would have gotten that opportunity at a school where I’m one of a thousand in a class.”
After completing her fellowship, Patel spoke to U.S. Armed Forces recruiters on campus, where she made the decision to join the Army.
“I count my blessings every day that I was in northern Afghanistan, taking care of 2,000 soldiers on that base, and traveling around the country with a team of medics,” Patel said.
After one year in Afghanistan, Patel decided to stay with the Army past her four-year commitment, and is now in her 16th year. Patel got involved in the “Decide to Lead” campaign when she was contacted by a Public Affairs Officer she was stationed with.
“I deployed with her and her husband, and the Army wanted to recruit leaders from diverse backgrounds. She thought of me and reached out,” Patel said. “It’s a good opportunity to show what the Army has to offer, especially for people with certain backgrounds who would not think of the Army as their first choice to further their achievements after college.”
The “Decide to Lead” campaign is intended to show potential recruits that officership is a viable path toward a bright career. The advertisements show recruits from diverse backgrounds in leadership positions, to promote the leadership roles offered by the Army. After some coaching on body language and gestures, Patel stepped on set.
“It was like a movie set. It was pretty incredible how many people were there and it was a little intimidating,” Patel said.
She was portraying a battle captain in the advertisement, something that was a little foreign to her.
“I tend to have a supporting role, so while it’s not exactly what I do every day, for me to be at the front in a tactical operations center, providing gestures of leading, it was really powerful to see myself in that role,” Patel said.
While she hasn’t told everyone about her role in the commercial, Patel said her family and friends “are quite amazed at the overall quality of the production, and are thrilled to see the advertisement.”
“My husband and colleagues know, and they are thrilled just to be able to advertise that the Army is already fairly diverse, and the leadership could definitely be more diverse,” Patel said.
She plans to continue her medical work with the army.
“Half of my career has been taking care of soldiers and planning their medical care, either daily here on base or overseas while in the field,” Patel said. “I’ve enjoyed doing this work, and what I enjoy most, apart from making sure that we are prepared and have what we need to go into the field, is working with the front–line providers. That’s the most rewarding work for me.”