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Air National Guardsman Colonel Lance Frye, Oklahoma National Guard State Air Surgeon, was named as Oklahoma’s interim commissioner of health by Governor Kevin Stitt.
As the state air surgeon, Frye is the Oklahoma Air National Guard’s senior medical officer and advisor to the Adjutant General.
He is responsible for all medical matters in the Air National Guard and a liaison for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which — combined with his civilian accomplishments — uniquely qualifies him for the commissioner of health position.
“Colonel Frye is a proven leader and highly qualified medical expert who has faithfully served our country and state with a focus on the health of those around him for over 25 years,” said Stitt.
“As a respected health care professional who has vast experience operating under pressure, I have full faith in his ability to continue upon the momentum we have seen the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) undergo over the past eight months and lead this critical agency as we respond to the worst pandemic in a century.”
Frye completed his Doctorate in Medicine at Loma Linda School of Medicine in California in 1993, an internship in Family Medicine in 1994 and a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1997.
Wanting to serve his country, he then joined the U.S. Air Force in 2005 as an active-duty flight surgeon. In 2010, Frye transitioned to the Oklahoma Air National Guard’s 138th Fighter Wing in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after getting a job with Oklahoma State University’s College of Health Sciences near the end of 2009.
“The Guard has been great for me,” said Frye. “I love being a Citizen Airman. I mean, I really do. I love going to work and doing what I’ve trained my whole life to do while also serving my country. So it’s the best of both worlds for me.”
During Oklahoma’s whole-of-government response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and before the commissioner of health appointment, Frye served as the state joint surgeon, who is responsible for both the Army and Air National Guard’s medical support.
In that position, Frye played a key role in the State’s response, developing the State’s surge plan, longterm care plan and testing plan.
“I was already working alongside the really dedicated people at the Department of Health through this whole response, spending long hours helping put together the health plan to move forward at the multi-agency coordination center,” said Frye.
“It’s kind of like going into battle with somebody. You come out on the other end and there’s a bond there that will be there forever. So, me moving over into that realm to take over the department was an easy transition.”
As a veteran of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, Frye gained experience as a flight surgeon in a contingency aeromedical staging facility, a gynecologic surgeon, combat search and rescue, and casualty evacuation in the highest threat environment in Afghanistan in spring 2008.
“That gave me the opportunity to do everything from being a validating flight surgeon for an entire area of responsibility, to doing combat search and rescue and point of injury pickups on battlefields — the whole range of the pieces of aeromedical evacuation,” explained Frye.
“Dealing with those stressful and emergency situations was a great help in my training and getting ready for this. It also helps me in my regular civilian life because, one, I really enjoy it and, two, it [has taught me] how to be focused and organized [and] keep [my] life in balance.”
Aside from continuing his position as the state air surgeon, Frye currently serves as the interim department chair, residency program director, and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Science.
“Colonel Frye is an outstanding Airman,” said Major General Michael Thompson, the adjutant general for Oklahoma. “He has always looked out for the best interests of those he serves with, and I am sure he will do the same in his new role as interim commissioner of health at the OSDH.”
The State Senate has until the end of the 2021 legislative session to confirm Frye’s appointment.
“I look at it as an opportunity to serve,” Frye concluded. “I look at it as an opportunity to make a difference in this state, and I can’t think of anything that would be more important than that.”