Lt. Col. Christopher Putnam received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from South Dakota State University in 2001 and a doctoral degree in optometry from Pacific University in 2005. He was commissioned by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) in March 2004 as part of the Health Professions Scholarship Program and entered active duty in 2005 after graduation. He served as the basic military training element chief at Lackland Air Force Base until 2008, when he was selected to the USAF Optometry Residency Program and was awarded optometric board certification in 2009.
Putnam served as a staff optometrist at Scott Air Force Base until 2011, when he was selected to the Air Force Institute of Technology Civilian Institution Program to complete a Ph.D. in vision science at University of Missouri-St. Louis, winning an unprecedented three Graduate Research Fellowship awards. He was selected by the optometry consultant to the USAF surgeon general to chair the Air Force Institute of Technology Ph.D./residency committee within the USAF Optometry Corporate Board. In this role, he helps align the activities of all USAF optometrists across 75 clinics with the Air Force Medical Service’s Strategic Vision, impacting a $48-million product line, which provides vision and ocular health services to more than 2.6 million beneficiaries worldwide.