MSHQ 030 : Military Medical School and Being a Medical Officer

Session 30

In today's episode, Ryan talks with Lt. Col (Dr.) Aaron Saguil, the Assistant Dean for Recruitment and Admissions at F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine, better known to most people at USUHS (Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences) or, in layman's term, the military medical school. It is an allopathic medical school where you apply to it just as you would to other allopathic schools through the AMCAS applications yet the only major difference for this school is you get paid to go to medical school. Your tuition is free plus you're getting paid as an active duty service member.

Today, we cover things like information about who should consider applying to this school, careers in the military as a physician, deployments, and more topics about being a military physician.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Dr. Saguil:

His path to military medicine:

  • Going to Duke University in his undergrad under ROTC scholarship with the Army
  • Wanting to go to medical practice since high school
  • His decision coming down to the proximity to his family
  • Going to University of Florida under HPSP scholarship and had a fantastic four-year time
  • Having service obligation from ROTC so he was dedicated to have a career in the military
  • Spending his Family Medicine residency in Virginia

Different opportunities he had after residency:

  • Spending 2 and a half years in Germany and some traveling opportunities
  • Wanting to do in-patient care and teaching responsibilities
  • Being accepted into the Faculty Development Fellowship Program at Madigan Army Medical Center
  • Earning his Masters of Public Health at the University of Washington
  • Teaching and mentoring residents and doing in-patient care
  • Serving as a student coordinator for medical students rotating with them
  • Seeing the leadership side of medical education – taking his first deployment in Afghanistan for 15 months
  • Being stationed in USUHS in Washington, D.C. for 9 months now serving as the assistant dean for recruitment and admissions

About the HPSP Scholarship:

Check out Session 18

About the Military Medical School

  • Located in Bethesda, Maryland, 10-12 miles outside Washington, D.C.
  • Conceived by an Act of Congress in 1972 and has graduated 5000 physicians
  • An allopathic (MD) degree granting institution licensed by the ACME, the accrediting body for all medical schools in the US and Canada
  • Tuition is free and you're getting paid $57,000 – $60,000 (for active duty service)

Applying to the Military Medical School:

  • Go through the AMCAS application
  • They don't charge people to apply to their school
  • They don't charge for the secondary applications
  • Just because it's free doesn't mean you should go apply to their school
  • Go apply if you like the idea of a service-oriented lifestyle or you want to be a part of something bigger than yourself

Types of students that military medical school looks for:

1/3 of students have prior association with the military (ROTC, service academy, or previous active service)

2/3 of their class don't have prior military experience

The common thread between these two groups is SERVICE

Other things they look for:

  • Shadowing experience
  • Good, strong clinical letter of recommendation
  • Has devoted a good portion of their life serving others (volunteering experience)

Having the motivation

Rate of burnout is high in primary care

Having something that pulls you out of bed every morning

Medical school life at the USUHS versus ‘normal' medical school:

  • 18-12-18 system
  • Pre-clinic (18 months) – lectures and mandatory small groups
  • Clinical rotations (12 months) – opportunity to travel to their multi-treatment faciltiies in Hawaii, Washington state, Texas, and Florida
  • Preparing for residency applications and sub-I's (18 months)
  • No mandatory PT!
  • Living off-campus
  • Getting paid to go to medical school

USUHS vs. HPSP scholarship:

  • HPSP has a fixed stipend that adjusts with inflation each year
  • If you're looking for a service-oriented field within medicine, you need financial assistance to attend medical school, or the military is appealing to you, apply to both USUHS and HPSP.
  • Each year, USUHS only brings around 63 army physicians and 52 physicians for the navy and the air force and only 4 for the public health service.
  • Each year, the HPSP program brings in over 200 for each of those branches (army, navy, and air force)

Restrictions on specialty or residency training:

  • No restrictions
  • Every year, they have 800 graduating students between USHUS and HPSP program
  • The same number of spots in residency programs in their military graduate medical education system
  • Military matching – students compete for military training spots
  • Guaranteed internship

The GMO (General Medical Officer)/Flight Surgeon Spot:

  • Having done 1-year or transitional year internship and going on to serve specific cool jobs
  • Having the opportunity to reapplying to the residency of your choice
  • GMO time gives you credit towards your residency program
  • Having the fear of the unknown

2 Key things for you to succeed in the military:

Flexibility

Optimism

Career tracks as a military medical officer:

  • Clinical
  • Operational
  • Executive positions
  • Academic
  • Research

Settings for sub-specialties:

  • Community clinic type
  • Community hospital
  • Tertiary care facility

Deployments as a physician:

  • Every 3-4 years on average depending on specialty, geographic location, and seniority (during the war in Afghanistan)
  • Army – 9 months
  • Navy – 6-7 months
  • Air force – 3-6 months

What happens to your family during deployment especially if you're a single parent?

Family Readiness Plan (FRP)

How competitive it is to get into USUSHS:

  • 3,000 applications
  • 500-600 students for interview
  • 171 seats to be admitted
  • Avg GPA: 3.5
  • Avg MCAT: 31
  • They will view postbac work in lieu of your time as an undergrad

Some pieces of advice for premed students:

The military is not for everyone.

Part of the military is living up to the legacy that Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy about taking care of the wounded, the widow and the orphan.

Links and Other Resources:

Session 18: Air Force – HPSP Scholarship Info Interview

USUHS Prospective Students

If you need any help with the medical school interview, go to medschoolinterviewbook.com. Sign up and you will receive parts of the book so you can help shape the future of the book. This book will include over 500 questions that may be asked during interview day as well as real-life questions, answers, and feedback from all of the mock interviews Ryan has been doing with students.

Are you a nontraditional student? Go check out oldpremeds.org.

For more great content, check out www.mededmedia.com for more of the shows produced by the Medical School Headquarters including the OldPremeds Podcast and watch out for more shows in the future!

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