USU Student Max Beerbaum Named 2024 Pat Tillman Scholar for Service, Leadership, and Impact

Bethesda, Md. – 2nd Lt. Max Beerbaum, a Uniformed Services University (USU) medical student, was named a 2024 Pat Tillman Scholar. The Pat Tillman Scholarship honors the legacy of former professional football player for the Arizona Cardinals turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman, recognizing military individuals embodying service, leadership, integrity, intellectual curiosity, and a commitment to making a significant impact in their chosen field.

Beerbaum’s journey to medicine began after graduating with an economics degree from California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, CA in 2010. Initially, he sought to become a firefighter and attended EMT school in San Diego, CA. While there, Beerbaum says he began learning about emergency medicine and became drawn to the scope of care critical care units provided.  

“I saw this whole other world of medicine appearing before me and I got very interested in it,” says Beerbaum. 

As his thought process changed, Beerbaum debated between continuing on to be a firefighter or becoming a paramedic or flight medic instead. A neighbor in San Diego working as a flight medic told Beerbaum about Pelham Training in Indiana, where he could earn his paramedic license in three and a half months. 

Beerbaum undertook the training, and while there, met three Independent Duty Medical Technicians (IDMTS) in the Air Force who sparked an interest in Pararescue (PJ). After earning his paramedic license, he returned to San Diego where he taught himself to swim and trained for nine months to be able to pass the Air Force’s rigorous Physical Agility and Stamina Test (PAST). The test is the first step to enter PJ training. Beerbaum enlisted in the Air Force in July 2013 and began basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Bexar County, TX.

“I didn’t make it, obviously,” says Beerbaum with a laugh. He was reclassed into logistics and stationed at Scott Air Force Base, IL. There, he coordinated with the Air Force Special Operations Command and the Navy at the Air Force’s Global Logistics Center to maintain CV-22 fleet readiness. Yet, Beerbaum maintained his sights on medicine. He was just over the river from St. Louis, MO. “I got there and started working on my paramedic license for Missouri, and would moonlight on the weekends as a paramedic.”

Those weekends working in East Saint Louis and the surrounding region were the most impactful on his medical experience. Beerbaum encountered a medically underserved population. In the ambulance, he saw many patients who, for various socioeconomic reasons, hadn’t visited a doctor in years. 

“And there was one moment that stuck with me,” Beerbaum recounts. “I was working a 48-hour shift and I picked up the same patient twice. I picked him up the first day, took him to a hospital, and then 24 hours later picked him up again for the exact same complaint.”

Beerbaum explains there were three hospitals in the area he would usually take a patient, but this particular patient requested one outside of the area. When Beerbaum asked why, the patient responded he had received a diagnosis from the first hospital but this time he was, “hoping you can take me to another hospital and they can diagnose with something that I can afford.” 

That was the catalyst for Beerbaum to become a physician. He realized he wasn’t just treating a disease, but all the other factors that led to the disease. Understanding he couldn’t provide that kind of care in the back of an ambulance, he wanted to break down the barriers that would prevent an individual from getting the follow-up care they needed. 

After working for about two more years in the area, he was assessed and selected by the Joint Communications Unit at Ft. Liberty, NC in 2017. It was here that Beerbaum began his Master’s degree in econometrics so he could begin to understand the economic drivers that led to the disparities in medical care like he saw in Missouri. In 2018, he deployed with a Joint Special Operations Task Force, returned briefly to welcome the birth of his first child, and then redeployed. 

Ever focused on strengthening his skills, Beerbaum completed and passed the Ranger Assessment and Selection program, and volunteered to go through Ranger School. In 2021, he was the 310th Airman to graduate from Ranger School. 

“Ranger school was like a capstone project for me. I had all these skills I picked up being around special operations and wanted to synthesize them into my own leadership style. I knew I was going to be a physician, and running an emergency room is all about relationships with your staff and making sure you get the most out of everyone that you work with,” explained Beerbaum.

Soon, he and his wife discussed how he would manage to find time to work as a paramedic amongst his Air Force duties, studying for his masters, all with a newborn. Beerbaum considered separating from the service so he could dedicate more time to his pursuit in medicine. Fortunately, it was then that he learned about the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program (EMDP2) at USU. 

The EMDP2 program partners with George Mason University to help dedicated service members, regardless of military profession or medical experience, transition into a career in military medicine. Upon completing the two-year program, Beerbaum earned a Master’s degree in Biology from GMU. And while he had a pick of medical schools he could apply to, Beerbaum says USU was his first pick. 

Not only did Beerbaum hear from his mentoring physicians how USU graduates were “head and shoulders” above their counterparts, but it again allowed him to maintain his dedication and commitment to the Air Force. Beerbaum was commissioned as an officer upon entering USU’s School of Medicine.  

“Like all of our students,” says Eric Elster, dean of USU’s School of Medicine, “2nd Lt. Beerbaum exemplifies the Tillman Foundation’s ‘service beyond self’ ethic, which is key to the practice of medicine and the life of a military officer. We are very proud of his accomplishment, and delighted to see one of our students included among this distinguished group of scholars for the second straight year.”

Beerbaum learned of the Tillman Scholarship through fellow EMDP2 student, and 2023 Pat Tillman Scholar, Adam Wallace. Wallace saw many of the qualities the Tillman Scholarship seeks exemplified in Beerbaum and encouraged him to apply. 

Beerbaum says being named a Tillman Scholar has been one of the highlights of his career. In the Pat Tillman Foundation he sees a like-minded community of individuals trying to make an impact, not just in medicine, but in an array of disciplines. “To be able to honor Pat’s legacy by becoming a scholar and carry on his legacy is something I’m very proud of,” Beerbaum adds. 

Beerbaum pulls inspiration for addressing medical disparities from the late Dr. Paul Farmer. After reading the book Mountains Beyond Mountains about the Harvard physician a few years ago, Beerbaum says, “what really inspired me about him was that he addressed all the economic issues that I saw as drivers of these medical disparities.” Farmer treated tuberculosis in Haiti, Cuba, and in prisons in Russia. He negotiated with drug manufacturers to produce enough medication to serve these previously neglected communities, and set up community health workers to facilitate follow-up care and address the concerns patients had about continuing care. 

Once he graduates from USU, Beerbaum’s short-term goal is to become an emergency medicine physician. He also seeks to join a Special Operations Surgical Team or Ground Surgical Team as a way of practicing medicine for soldiers facing the greatest danger on the battlefield. 

Long-term, Beerbaum says “I like the idea of serving populations either at home or abroad that don’t have access to the medical care they deserve. Emergency medicine is going to be the way that I make that happen.”  

Supported by his wife Veronica, a trauma therapist, and their two children, Beerbaum says he is “forever grateful” for her ability to build resiliency in their family so they can face the challenges that arise. 

Beerbaum’s desire to address healthcare disparities and improve access to medicine, his passion for knowledge, and commitment to military leadership and service exemplifies the heart of the Pat Tillman Scholar. Fellow Pat Tillman Scholars include EMDP2 graduate Joshua O’Sullivan, named this year, and Army 2nd Lt. Brent Bubany, a class of 2025 USU medical student, named last year. 

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About the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences: The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, founded by an act of Congress in 1972, is the nation’s federal health sciences university and the academic heart of the Military Health System. USU students are primarily active-duty uniformed officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Public Health Service who receive specialized education in tropical and infectious diseases, TBI and PTSD, disaster response and humanitarian assistance, global health, and acute trauma care. USU also has graduate programs in oral biology, biomedical sciences and public health committed to excellence in research. The University’s research program covers a wide range of areas important to both the military and public health. For more information about USU and its programs, visit

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