Ex-Army Dermatologist Talks About His Path through USUHS

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The Premed Years

Session 93

In today’s episode, Ryan talks with Dr. Chad Hendrickson, who recently got out of the Army as a dermatologist and is now working in private practice.

Chad shares with us his medical school journey applying to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS), also known as the military medical school. He shares his thought processes for why he chose to be a physician over a PA, why a military medical school over a regular one, and why the Army over the Navy and the Air Force. He also shares his advice to those interested in taking the USUHS Medical School route.

Chad’s journey to medical school

  • His uncle’s influence on his life
  • Deciding to become a PA and eventually a physician
  • Switching to premed in undergrad
  • Staying out for a year before going to college
  • Going from a solid C average in high school to nearly a 4.0 in college by 2nd semester

[Related episode: MD vs PA! Let’s Talk About It with a PA to Help You Decide!]

His thought process for choosing USUHS

  • Initially applying to the National Institutes of Health for a pre-Intramural Research Training Award (pre-IRTA) but finally deciding to apply to the military medical school
  • Going to an accelerated one-year master’s program, more like a medical school prep course
  • Factors for choosing USUHS over Georgetown
  • Discussions with his wife on the pros and cons of going to a military medical school

Choosing between Army, Navy, and Air Force

  • His initial choice of serving the Air Force but it was filled up
  • The Army as his next best choice

[Related episode: Life as a Flight Surgeon]

What’s it’s like going to a military medical school?

  • Wearing a uniform every day
  • Maintaining a level of professionalism and military bearing
  • You’re a med student first and an officer second
  • Maintaining weight standards to pass the mandatory PT test, although mandatory physical training is not required
  • Everybody comes in as a second lieutenant, and you have to go through the officer basic course before the start of med school
  • Getting pinned O3 once you graduate

His journey through dermatology residency after USUHS

  • Chad was lucky to get into the Army’s select residencies including derm, where you can go straight in and don’t have to pay your dues
  • Out of med school, he went straight to internship and 3 years of derm residency

[Related episode: A Deep Dive into Dermatology Match Data]

Being a dermatologist in the Army

As a dermatologist in the Army, retirees were the largest portion of his patient population.Click To Tweet
  • The kinds of cases he was seeing
  • Working in the U.S. and in Germany
  • Spending a total of 7 years as an active-duty dermatologist and living in Germany

Why he left the military for private practice

  • Choosing between a good life and practice in Germany and a chance for his kids to live with family back home in Pennsylvania

The duality of being a doctor and officer

  • Getting deployed in Iraq as a general medical officer
  • Being pinned Major when he was down-ranged in Iraq
His amazing experiences serving as a military physician outweigh what he may have missed in private practice in that 7 years.Click To Tweet

Advice for premed students looking a military medical school or the HPSP scholarship:

  1. The training opportunities are amazing. You can do a lot of things that civilian med students and physicians don’t get to do.
  1. Explore your options. Listen to The Premed Years. Talk to military physicians or people like Chad who have experienced it, and ask whether they would do it all over again.

On Chad’s podcast:

More advice for premed students:

  1. Go in with an open mind as you explore the personalities in different specialties.
  1. Go through each learning experience and put a ton of energy into it.

Links and Other Resources: