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Military Medical School and Being a Medical Officer

Session 30

Military Medical School and Being a Medical Officer

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 as USUHS (Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences) or, in layman’s terms, 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. One 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 topics like who should consider applying to this school, careers in the military as a physician, deployments, and more topics about being a military physician.

Dr. Saguil’s path to military medicine:

  • Going to Duke University in his undergrad under an ROTC scholarship with the army
  • Wanting to go into medical practice since high school
  • His decision for medical schools coming down to the proximity to his family
  • Going to University of Florida under the HPSP scholarship and having a fantastic four-year time
  • Having a service obligation from ROTC 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 with some traveling opportunities
  • Being accepted into the Faculty Development Fellowship Program at Madigan Army Medical Center
  • Earning his Master’s 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 through
  • 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 for an interview all about the air force HPSP Scholarship. Also check out this episode of the OldPreMeds Podcast: “Will the HPSP Scholarship Be Too Hard with a Family?

About the Military Medical School

  • Located in Bethesda, Maryland, 10-12 miles outside of Washington, D.C.
  • Conceived by an Act of Congress in 1972
  • Has graduated 5,000 physicians
  • An allopathic (MD) degree-granting institution licensed by the ACME, the accrediting body for all medical schools in the US and Canada
  • Free tuition plus a salary of $57,000 to $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.
Apply if you like the idea of a service-oriented lifestyle or you want to be a part of something bigger than yourself.Click To Tweet

Types of students the military medical school looks for:

  • 1/3 of students have a 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:

Staying Motivated in Medicine

  • The rate of burnout is high in primary care.
  • Have something that pulls you out of bed every morning.

Life at USUHS versus “normal” medical school:

They have what they call the “18-12-18 system”:

  • Pre-clinical (18 months): lectures and mandatory small groups
  • Clinical rotations (12 months): opportunity to travel to their multi-treatment facilities 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, if you need financial assistance to attend medical school, or if the military is appealing to you, apply to both USUHS and HPSP.

HPSP is a bigger program than USUHS:

  • Each year, USUHS only brings in around 63 army physicians, 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).
If you're looking for a service-oriented field within medicine, if you need financial assistance to attend medical school, or if the military is appealing to you, apply to both USUHS and HPSP.Click To Tweet

Restrictions on specialty or residency training?

  • No restrictions on specialty or residency training.
  • Every year, they have 800 graduating students between the USHUS and HPSP programs, with 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, going on to serve specific cool jobs
  • Having the opportunity to reapply to the residency of your choice
  • Getting credit towards your residency program with GMO time

[Related episode: Life as a Flight Surgeon]

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 in military medicine:

  • Community clinic type
  • Community hospital
  • Tertiary care facility

[Related episode: Ex-Army Dermatologist Talks About His Path Through UHUHS]

Deployments as a military 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?

Learn about Family Readiness Programs (FRP).

How competitive is it to get into USUHS?

  • 3,000 applications
  • 500-600 students invited for an interview
  • 171 seats to be admitted
  • Average GPA: 3.5
  • Average 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 left, about taking care of the wounded, the widow, and the orphan.

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

Links and Other Resources

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