Patrick Dougherty '01
School of Health Sciences and Human Performance | Exercise Science
“My job is pretty cool, especially on those days when I get to fly in an F-18.” For Pat Dougherty, those flights are the culmination of years of study that started at Ithaca College.
The exercise science graduate had always played sports, but his professors turned him on to running studies, which he immediately found himself drawn to. “I was curious about how the body worked and exercise physiology is a lot about running at its core. If I was going to study it, I might as well do a lot of it. So that’s when I started running marathons and since then I’ve switched to triathlons.”
Pat’s passion for exercise science led him to pursue his master’s degree and later his doctorate, but that’s where things took a turn. “I realized an academic career wasn’t for me. I wanted something a little more exciting, so I applied and was eventually commissioned as a lieutenant in the Naval aerospace physiology program in 2009.”
Now Pat spends his days providing training for anyone in the service who might be involved in flying. The physiological threats a member of a flight crew can be exposed to include hypoxia, which is a special disorientation that occurs when there isn’t enough blood flow to the brain. This happens sometimes in flights that reach multiple g-forces, and it can have catastrophic results. One of the tools Pat has at his disposal is the only “high-G” human centrifuge in the U.S. Navy, which spins its subjects under multiple g-forces to mimic the sensations hypoxia may bring.
“It’s like a wicked carnival ride. There’s a big motor in the center, and we spin them around in this room, which exposes them to increased accelerations like they would feel in the air. I’ve gone through it a few times, so I can safely say that it’s pretty intense.”
Come February, Pat will move to Corpus Christi, where he will become an air medical safety officer. It’s another challenge he feels completely ready for. “I haven’t taken the most linear path since I left Ithaca, but everything I learned on South Hill has helped push me to the next level of my career.”
>> More on this story: Watch a video of pilot training in the human centrifuge