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Ernsting Award: William Butler

July 01, 2022

Ernsting Award: William Butler

Established and sponsored by Environmental Tectonics Corporation in memory of Professor Ernsting. It is given for outstanding research in altitude physiology, and/or longstanding exceptional performance in the education, development, and administration of Aerospace Medicine and related specialties.

A white man with closely cropped pale hair wearing glasss, a white shirt, dark grey pinstripe jacket, and blue tie is shown against a dark grey backround with part of an American flag on the left.William P. Butler, M.D., MTM&H, FACS, FAsMA, is the 2022 recipient of the John Ernsting Award. The award is given for outstanding research in altitude physiology and/or for longstanding exceptional performance in the education, development, and administration of aerospace medicine and related specialties. As a physician, researcher, academician,
and author, Dr. Butler is well recognized for his expansive expertise. He conducted research, consolidated and evaluated data, and presented and published papers resulting in four panels and numerous presentations at AsMA meetings. This unique work culminated in the monograph “Physiological Foundation for Clinical Validation of Aeromedical Evacuation Patients,” which is used for education and training at the highest level of military academia and operations. The monograph’s significance is that it brings together in one place the physiological basis for clinical validation of aeromedical evacuation patients.
   Dr. Butler’s research underlying this monograph pioneered the application of tissue oxygen delivery precepts, well-established in ground-based intensive care units, to AE. His work demonstrated how optimizing of tissue oxygen delivery, whether it be with supplemental oxygen, transfusion, or cabin altitude restriction, reduced postflight procedures and postflight complications (i.e., morbidity). His specific focus being both hemoglobin levels and cabin altitude restriction. He also collaborated in the creation of a tissue oxygen delivery calculator graphic-user-interface, thus seriously easing the work of calculating tissue oxygen delivery. Furthermore, his work established the cost (e.g., flight time, fuel cost) for imposing a cabin altitude restriction was not operationally significant. And he developed additional research-based validation algorithms for employing inflight enteral feeding and the safe transport of military working dogs. In addition, he proposed and executed the creation of the USAF’s first outpatient “surgicenter” housing outpatient surgery, minor surgery, upper and lower endoscopy, and surgery clinic services, upping Malmstrom AFB, MT surgical services productivity
by 200%. This Same Day Surgery Center served as a model for the USAF Super Clinic.
   Dr. Butler earned his B.S. in Biology from the College of William and Mary in 1975 and his M.D. from the University of Virginia in 1979. His Internship and General Surgery Residency were performed at The Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA, completing his surgical training in 1984. Later, he obtained Fellowship training in Clinical Hyperbaric Medicine at the Davis Hyperbaric Laboratory, Brooks AFB, TX, completing it in 1996. In 2001, he concluded a dual residency in Aerospace Medicine and Preven tive Medicine at the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine, Brooks AFB, TX. As part of those residencies, in 1999, he earned his Masters Degree in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS). His academic work during those three training years produced six presentations and five peer-reviewed papers.
   Dr. Butler has practiced clinical medicine as a General Surgeon, Hyperbaricist, and Flight Surgeon. He has also been an academician, from Clinical and Fellowship Directors for the Davis Hyperbaric Laboratory to Clinical Associate Professor (Anesthesiology), University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX, to Assistant Professor (Aerospace Medicine) at USUHS to his current position as a Professor (Aerospace Medicine) at the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine. He is also the present Chair, Aerospace Medicine Fellowship Residency Advisory Committee, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN. Moreover, he carries the USAF Chief Flight Surgeon designator and is retired from the USAF after 28+ years’ service.
   Dr. Butler is board certified in General Surgery, Diving & Hyperbaric Medicine, Wound Management, Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, Public Health & General Preventive Medicine, and Aerospace Medicine. In addition, he carries the United States Air Force (USAF) Special Experience Identifier Academic/Clinical Grandmaster in both Hyperbaric Medicine and Aerospace Medicine. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the Aerospace Medical Association.
   Some of Dr. Butler’s previous honors include Air Force Association (Texas) Clinician of the Year, five-time Instructor of the Year for the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine Advanced Aerospace Medicine for International Medical Officers Course, invited expert to the USAF Surgeon General’s Strategic Planning conferences for En Route Care Research and Human Performance Research and Cabin Altitude Restriction, Squadron Commander, Deputy Group Commander, and United States Central Command Theater Validating Flight Surgeon (Al Udeid, Quatar).