September 5, 2012

Plattsburgh native practices medicine in military


---- — NEW YORK CITY — Agnes Liem’s decision to enter the health-care field led her to active duty and to an appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

Liem, who grew up in Plattsburgh and graduated from Plattsburgh High School in 1997, is a U.S. Air Force 1st lieutenant with the 87th Medical Group, stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.

She is a pediatric nurse practitioner with 2,500 children of active-duty personnel under her care.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Liem said of the position she has held since September 2011. “It’s been so much fun, serving the kids and their families.”


The connection to family was an important reason Liem chose to enter pediatrics.

“You’re working with different age groups and always have a totally different approach in how you provide care to individual children,” she said.

“But what I also find rewarding is the family aspect. You’re not only caring for the children, but you have to interact with the parents and family, as well.”

After graduating from PHS, Liem attended Cornell University, where she earned a degree in neurobiology.


“After Cornell, I was interested in some kind of field in health care,” Liem said. 

She initially took a job in Emergency Medical Services at CVPH Medical Center in 2003 and then moved to New York City, where she worked as a paramedic at New York Cornell-Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

“After working as an EMT, I realized early on that I was interested in ultimately becoming a paramedic. Where else to achieve that goal than to work in New York? I went to the paramedic course at Stony Brook University in Long Island and was hired at (Presbyterian).

“Being an EMS (provider) was a great choice,” she said. “Being a primary responder to patients in need, experiencing new things each day, it was a wonderful learning experience for me.”

But her interest in health care grew beyond that role as first-responder.


“It was actually my mom (Anna Liem), who is on the faculty of nursing at SUNY Plattsburgh,” she explained. “She first suggested that I look into being a nurse and a nurse practitioner. I’m so glad she did; I’m so happy with what I’m doing now.”

She returned to college and received her Bachelor of Nursing degree in 2008 and Master of Nursing in 2010 from Columbia School of Nursing.

While attending school, she would return home on weekends and work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.


She then worked for two years at Plattsburgh Primary Care Pediatrics before she decided to expand her career experience by joining the military. She signed an active-duty commission with the U.S. Air Force in September 2011.

“I decided to join the military, specifically the Air Force, because they were the only one interested in my specialty as a pediatric nurse practitioner. I knew I wanted to serve my country and ultimately pursue my doctorate. The military is able to help me with accomplishing that goal.”

Liem finds health care in private practice and the military to be equally rewarding.

“Providing care for kids is the same. To me, one is not better than the other. I’m doing relatively the same thing, caring for children and working with their parents and families.”

As a commissioned officer, Liem may be deployed overseas, she noted one major difference between the two scenarios.


Liem recently visited New York City with several other Air Force representatives as part of a promotional tour for the military. The visit actually landed her and nine others on “David Letterman” to help introduce his popular Top 10 list.

On this particular episode, the military personnel listed the tongue-in-cheek Top 10 reasons a person should not join the Air Force. Liem delivered No. 5: “Whenever you see an eject lever, you impulsively pull it.”

Liem’s commitment is for four years. She does not yet know whether she will re-enlist or move back into private practice. She is committed to earning her doctorate degree by 2015 but does not know if she will continue providing health care or move into education to train upcoming generations of nurses.

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