Podcast Episodes

Podcast Episode 19: Military Medicine with Dr. David Flick

Dr. David Flick, a flight surgeon for the United States Army and advisor for MedSchoolCoach, is our guest for this episode. He joins us to share his vast knowledge of working with the military as a physician.

David shares the complete process of applying to work with the military as a med student, from the matching process to the first few years after graduation. There are two main ways to get funding as a military med student, and David tells us the difference between them. He discusses advantages and disadvantages of joining the military as a med student and informs us of what students considering the military path should do to educate themselves.

[1:26] What it Means to Sign Up for the Military as a Medical Student.

There are two mains ways to work and obtain a scholarship with the military. The first way is the Health Professionals Scholarship Program (HPSP). In this program, you can choose any medical student you with to go to, and the military will pay all the expenses. The second way is to go to the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USUHS), also known as America’s Medical School. In this position, you’re serving as active duty for the four years of medical school and in return there’s a larger commitment. In general, for HPSP you owe four years, but for USUHS, you owe seven years minimum. When we talk about owing time, it means that you will have to work as a physician for the military for the predetermined amount of time upon graduation.

When choosing a branch, some people join based on family history, and some people pick at random. Two good things to think about are the size of the branch (as larger ones will have more funding) and the number of residency positions available. The largest branch is the Army, and it has the most residency positions. Some people will choose based on which state they want to be in; for example, California’s large coastline causes it to have many Navy bases.

[04:46] Applying for Residency After Completing the HPSP.

The military conducts its own match that is separate from the civilian one. It’s the same type of process, but it takes place in December (a few months earlier).

Recruiters may tell you that you’ll have the option to serve in civilian or military residencies, but David advises on planning to do a military residency as it is most common.

[06:27] The Benefits of Joining the Military as a Medical Student.

HPSP covers all funds for medical school, and that includes tuition, book fees, and test fees. It doesn’t cover cost of living, but the military does include a stipend that is paid monthly. At USUHS, you are active duty and therefore being paid as a full officer.

People are usually attracted to the military because of the money, but David advises that if students are going into it just for the money, it’s probably not the best reason. Other benefits include a variety of extra leadership learning opportunities and the potential for travel.

[08:21] Drawbacks of Being in the Military.

Travelling and being moved around can be a negative thing too, especially if you have a family. If you owe about four years to serve as a military physician, it’s common to do at least two moves.

Doctors in the military often have leadership positions or obligations as both a physician and an officer. If you’re not interested in some of that administrative work as an officer, it could be a burden.

Most military physicians will deploy within their four years of payback, and it could last from six to twelve months.

[10:12] Does Going into the Military Help Students Get into Medical School?

Many students think that medical schools are more likely to take them because they have guaranteed funding, but that’s not true at all. Medical admissions departments look strictly for the best-fit students. There’s no competitive advantage to being a scholarship holder.

The military schools are also looking for dedicated applicants. You’re applying to the school, and if you’re selected, you’re commissioned on active duty. You’re not getting the scholarship before you enter medical school.

[11:18] Tips for Perspective Military Applicants.

Find a base near where you are located and get in touch with some of the physicians there. Find out what they like, what they don’t like, and what it’s like to treat soldiers.

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