Col. (Dr.) Sarady Tan joined the Academy of Distinguished Engineers at the 2018 Oregon Stater Awards ceremony, held Feb. 22 in Portland.
Tan earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering at Oregon State University, in 1988 and 1990, before earning his medical degree from Oregon Health and Science University in 1993.
Today he is director of the National Center for Medical Intelligence within the Defense Intelligence Agency, headquartered in Washington, D.C. He leads a diverse team of military, civilian, and international partners who monitor the medical risk intelligence of foreign adversaries to help the president and national policymakers make informed security decisions.
His impressive 22-year career as a physician and commander in the U.S. Air Force includes eight deployments: to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Qatar. “As an operational flight surgeon, my responsibility has always been to prepare — physically and mentally — the folks who are going to fight on the front lines and make sure they’re fit to go,” Tan said.
Tan came to the United States from Cambodia as a refugee with his family in 1975 during the U.S. withdrawal from the Vietnam War. He was just 9 years old. In high school, he watched documentaries about the challenges faced by refugees and wanted to do something to serve the underprivileged.
Before Tan started graduate school at Oregon State, his parents gave him a plane ticket to Thailand so he could visit a refugee camp.
“I saw a lot of doctors working there,” Tan said. “When I experienced Doctors Without Borders, I knew I wanted to be a physician.”
Tan also knew he wanted to serve in the U.S. military. His father was formerly in the Cambodian Royal Air Force.
“I wanted to at least serve my adopted country as a way to repay for the second chance in life and opportunities I’d been given living here,” Tan said.
Tan is passionate about educating others about the necessity of giving back to our country.
“It’s about doing something you enjoy,” Tan said. “For me, medicine and serving our country are intricately related. You can say that I am living the American dream.”