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  • So you want to be a United States military doctor.

  • You want to serve your country, travel around the world, and be at the cutting edge of medical

  • technology.

  • This is what it means to be a military doctor, and we'll help you decide if it's a good

  • field for you.

  • Dr. Jubbal, MedSchoolInsiders.com.

  • Welcome to our next installment in So You Want to Be.

  • In this series, we highlight a specific specialty or discipline within medicine, such as being

  • a military physician, and help you decide if it's a good fit for you.

  • You can find more specialties on our So You Want to Be playlist.

  • Military medicine is widely misunderstood by us civilians.

  • We're going to be comparing military medicine to civilian medicine, so it will make the

  • most sense if you are familiar with the civilian medical training process.

  • If you're not, then first watch this video for a brief overview .

  • To become a physician in the military, there are two main paths to choose from: the Health

  • Professions Scholarship Program, or HPSP for short, and the Uniformed Services University

  • of the Health Sciences, also known as the USUHS.

  • HPSP is the more common path of the two, whereby you go to any medical school, whether osteopathic

  • or allopathic, and here's the kicker: your tuition is entirely paid for and you also

  • receive a monthly stipend for living expenses.

  • For the most part, your medical training is pretty similar to that of your civilian counterparts.

  • However, as a HPSP recipient, you will have basic military training, most commonly during

  • your second year of medical school.

  • During your clinical years, meaning third and fourth year, you are usually granted the

  • opportunity to becomeactive dutyand rotate at military hospitals if you choose.

  • So what's the catch?

  • The United States military paid for your medical school education, so it's only fair to pay

  • it back.

  • Generally speaking, there's a 1 to 1 payback in service to the military under HPSP.

  • That means if you graduated medical school after the traditional 4 years, you are required

  • to be a physician serving in the military for at least 4 years after completing your

  • training.

  • While you are of course being paid when you are serving as a physician, note that military

  • compensation rates are usually lower than civilian counterparts.

  • The main benefit to HPSP is that you have complete flexibility to where you attend medical

  • school.

  • Want to go to UC San Diego and enjoy the awesome weather?

  • No problem.

  • What about staying at Ohio State to be close to family?

  • Also totally fine.

  • The downside is that unless you're attending a medical school that has several HPSP recipients,

  • you will be isolated from the rest of the military medical training process.

  • You won't be exposed to the military match process, the military in general, and you

  • won't be participating in drills or field exercises.

  • The USUHS is the military's medical school.

  • Like HPSP, tuition is completely free, but rather than a small stipend for living expenses,

  • you'll be serving as an active duty 2nd Lieutenant and paid as such, which is around

  • $40,000 per year base pay, with about another $20,000 of non-taxable income for housing.

  • The most obvious downside is that you won't have a choice in where you attend medical

  • school - you'll have to attend USUHS, which is located in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Additionally, the payback period is longer than HPSP at 7 years on average.

  • That being said, there are several benefits to this path.

  • You'll be fully integrated into the military medical training system from the get go, and

  • that means many more opportunities, unique experiences, and full immersion into the military

  • culture.

  • Of course, you'll be participating in field exercises, but it gets much more exciting

  • than that.

  • For example, you can gain early exposure and do rotations in humanitarian medicine, disaster

  • medicine, rotate across the U.S. and even internationally.

  • The world of military medicine shares many similarities with civilian medicine, but is

  • in some ways a world of its own.

  • As a military physician, it's not only necessary for you to be a specialist in your field,

  • but also a competent and flexible generalist while deployed.

  • For example, a general surgeon, while deployed, may be asked to do cases more typically reserved

  • for a neurosurgeon, otolaryngologist, or urologist.

  • Alternatively, a pediatrician may be deployed as a battalion doctor, the military equivalent

  • of a primary care physician.

  • This is a difficult and stressful aspect of military medicine, but it's mitigated by

  • a strong support system and excellent training.

  • You'll always have someone to call to ask for help or clarification.

  • And these cross-specialty responsibilities are only reserved while you're deployed.

  • Back home, you'll stick to working within your intended specialty.

  • The military match process is an entirely different animal.

  • The regular civilian match occurs in March, but the military match occurs in December.

  • All specialties are still available for residency training, however the military is working

  • to curtail the number ofnon-deployable specialists.”

  • For example, the military will still train pediatricians but may limit additional subspecialty

  • training in fellowship.

  • Once you graduate medical school and start residency, you are promoted to captain in

  • the Army and Air Force, or to Lieutenant in the Navy.

  • A majority of graduates match into their intended specialty of choice.

  • For the Army that number was 85% in 2018.

  • The Air Force's most recent published number was 85% for 2017.

  • Taking into account specialty and location, in 2016 72% of USUHS graduates got their first

  • choice of specialty and site (across all branches).

  • The Navy is a bit different in that the majority of their graduates will complete an intern

  • year and do a General Medical Officer Tour prior to completing residency.

  • A General Medical Officer, or GMO for short, is essentially a primary care plus doctor.

  • After completing intern year, GMO's are assigned to different units.

  • Depending on their unit, they will undergo additional training, lasting months to years,

  • to best be in service of their unit.

  • For example, Navy flight doctors will go to flight school where they will learn not only

  • about the physiology involved in flying fighter jets and helicopters, but they themselves

  • will also learn to fly.

  • They'll work with pilots, go in jets, and experience multiple aspects of the unit.

  • The goal is to make them experts in their respective fields.

  • GMO units have a wide range, from flight medicine to dive medicine, and much more.

  • As a GMO, you can expect to get significant field experience and even deploy, with tours

  • usually lasting 2 to 3 years.

  • During this time you will be treated and salaried as an attending physician.

  • GMO's are colloquially referred to assurgeons,” such as flight surgeon, dive surgeon, etc.

  • However, they are not surgeons.

  • If you want to be a surgeon and actually do surgery, the military has training programs

  • for the traditional surgical specialties such as general surgery, otolaryngology, orthopedics,

  • urology, etc.

  • If you don't become a GMO, you will proceed with residency training in a similar capacity

  • to civilians.

  • The main difference is that you will be required to fulfill certain military requirements such

  • as physical fitness tests, drills, and online training.

  • Some programs offer the opportunity to attend military schools, such as airborne, air assault,

  • or flight medicine.

  • Those that fail to match will complete a transitional year and they will reapply during the subsequent

  • match.

  • If they go unmatched again, they will go on to become a GMO. Navy graduates have the highest

  • rate of graduates becoming GMO's.

  • This has nothing to do with the applicantsit's just part of Navy medicine to have

  • GMO's with units.

  • The lowest rate for GMO's is in the Army with the Air Force in the middle.

  • Military medicine is certainly not for everyone.

  • Here's how you can decide if it's a good fit for you.

  • First consider the downsides.

  • If any of these are deal breakers for you, then it's likely not a good match.

  • The average military physician makes approximately $150,000 to $200,000 per year, depending on

  • your rank, although that is not fully accounting for specialty bonuses.

  • As a civilian, you can make much more, depending on your specialty.

  • As a primary care doctor, you'll be making a similar amount, but as an orthopedic or

  • neurosurgeon, you'll be making 2-3x that amount.

  • As a military physician, you don't have much control over where you'll be living

  • and practicing medicine.

  • While you can certainly submit preferences, it's ultimately up to the military to determine

  • where you are most needed.

  • Additionally, after residency you can be deployed at any time, and that usually means significant

  • time away from your family and loved ones.

  • There are of course risks if you are deployed to active war zones.

  • If you'd like to subspecialize with fellowship training, understand that while it is certainly

  • possible, the military limits the number of fellowship trainees every year.

  • Between 2016 and 2018, only about 50% of Army doctors who wanted to do a fellowship were

  • allowed to do so.

  • That said, if you are permitted, military physicians typically go to top flight fellowship

  • programs.

  • Lastly, as they say in the military, you need toembrace the suck.”

  • If you are in military medicine, you will be deployed, and you will find yourself in

  • conditions that are not comfortable.

  • Military medicine requires a greater level of flexibility and creativity than civilian

  • medicine.

  • Think of the generalist having to perform specialist surgeries while deployed.

  • Additionally, you will have to work in austere, unique, and changing environments.

  • Military medicine can be practiced in active war zones, areas recovering from conflict,

  • pandemics such as Ebola, humanitarian missions, global training exercises, and areas subject

  • to natural disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis.

  • Military medicine allows you to serve your country, see the world, be with America's

  • finest, get additional training, work with world leaders in the field, push yourself,

  • and do things you never thought would do.

  • It's not for everybody, but for those who do pursue it, there is nothing quite like

  • it.

  • If you're wondering how I know so much about military medicine, it's because of our awesome

  • team of physicians at Med School Insiders, several of whom are current military physicians.

  • Maybe you need help deciding if military medicine is right for you, or want to ensure you're

  • as successful as possible given its unique training intricacies.

  • Regardless of your situation, our team at Med School Insiders can help.

  • Our team of over 60 physicians are on standby, here to serve you in helping you become a

  • future physician.

  • With our extensive experience and broad range of expertise, from civilian to military, primary

  • care to plastic surgery, we can help students from any background, regardless of their goals.

  • If you have a highly unique non-traditional story or very specific goals in the type of

  • medicine you want to practice, chances are we've successfully helped students in similar

  • situations get to where they want to be.