After graduating from North Central H.S., Melanie completed the Surgical Technology Program at Spokane Community College prior to enlisting in the U.S. Air Force in 1987. As a Surgical Technician, she was deployed in support of American forces in the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. In 1993 she entered the Air Force’s Physician Assistant Training Program, and upon completion was commissioned a second lieutenant. Her first duty station as an officer was Fairchild AFB. On June 20, 1994, she rushed to aid the wounded after a gunman opened fire at the base hospital.
She served as executive officer to the Assistant Air Force Surgeon General, and later helped facilitate the evacuation of casualties after the Benghazi Embassy attack in 2012. Throughout her career, she has promoted the critical role of Physician Assistants, not only in all branches of the U.S. military, but also in many civilian communities, both at home and abroad, where she has served. She was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2010.
During her career, Colonel Ellis embraced overseas assignments. She has showcased the capabilities of Physician Assistants in Belgium and Germany in Europe; in Ghana and Botswana in Africa; in Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Oman in the Middle East; and in Korea and Japan in the Far East.
While serving as Commander of the 35th Medical Operations Squadron at Misawa Air Base in Japan from 2013-2015, Colonel Ellis was named the 2014 “American Federal Service Physician Assistant of the Year.”