Air Force Questions - Help!

Discussion in 'Medical Students - MD' started by sethpol, Mar 5, 2001.

  1. sethpol

    sethpol Member
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    I have been selected for the Air Force HPSP, but before I sign my contract, I have some questions that I would prefer to ask
    other med students or people who know about the subject.

    I know all the positives, but honestly, what are the negatives? I really can't see any, but they must be lurking somewhere! After I complete med school, and do my residency, all I have to give is 4 years as a physician for the air force? Any "hidden" things like choice of residency, or possibility that I
    have to serve more than 4 years, or that I might be doing something non-medical in the Air Force?

    Please help me with this decision. I would appreciate any advice.
    Thanks
     
  2. WingZero

    WingZero Senior Member
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    I am by no means an authority on the subject - I'm just repeating what I've read several times on similar threads. One disadvantage may be the GMO requirement, which I'm not sure if it exists for the Air Force or not. If so, it means you have to serve as a General Medical Officer for at least a year before starting residency training. Residency spots are based on the current needs of the Air Force, so that may limit your options down the road. From a purely financial standpoint (i.e. not taking into account one's desire to serve in the Armed Force), HPSP ends up not being as good a "deal" as simply borrowing the money (you can pretty much borrow the entire cost of education with Stafford loans alone now - the new limit is roughly $45,000 per year) unless you end up entering the lowest paying field. I remember looking at the pay charts for a captain in the armed forces (most likely your rank after residency) and even with the bonuses tacked on for being a physician, your pay comes out to around $85,000/year post residency. It approaches $100,000 after you've put in a few years, but your committment will already be up. Compare that to the average civilian pay for a middle of the road specialty in terms of pay like Emergency Medicine. During our career seminars, residents at our school talk about job offers with starting salaries of $160,000+. In specialties where you can go into private practice and make partner after a few years (i.e. Anesthesiology), the pay almost doubles - one anesth. chief residenct here bragged about an offer of $250,000 post residency, with the chance to make partner in two years, when the salary would go to almost $400,000. Needless to say, on average, the pay differential during the first four years after residency between civilian and armed forces pay is more than enough to cover the cost of the medical education.

    Again, this may sound like I'm only concerned about money, but my point was that to go into HPSP for the money would not be a wise decision in most cases. If you have a desire to serve our country through this program, good for you and best of luck. I was strongly considering HPSP but in the end decided that it was too restrictive in terms of what fields were open as options and the fact that I would rather mortgage my future earnings rather than my future time.
     
  3. BlueFalcon

    BlueFalcon curmudgeon
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    Wingzero,

    It's my understanding that bonus pay doesn't come into the picture until after you've finished your committed time. So if you're serving a four year commitment, you don't begin to receive bonus pay until after you have received credit for four years. Keep in mind that time spent in a residency program does not count towards your committed time and the financial picture begins to look bleaker still.

    BF
     
  4. brentunc

    brentunc Member
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    I have also been offered the Air Force scholarship. My family has a long line of military service and I have no doubt that I would enjoy it. I also do not mind earning a little less income during that period. However, what I am worried about is being forced into a specialty that I do not want to do. I have two questions which my recruiter did not know:

    1.) Of those Air Force HPSP students who apply to do an Air Force residency, what percentage are actually matched with one of them.

    2.) If you do not match any of your five choices, then I assume that you are sent to do a civilian residency. If that is the case, what type of residency can you do? Will the military say, "We could not match you for any of our five pediatric residency programs which you requested, so instead we want you to do radiology in a civilian hospital." I'm basically trying to understand how they can force you into something that you do not want to do.

    [This message has been edited by brentunc (edited 03-06-2001).]
     
  5. osteoguy

    osteoguy Junior Member
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    I also had an Air Force scholarship offered to me. I declined it because I didn't know what I wanted to specialize in when I entered medical school and the USAF is not exactly brimming with residencies outside of primary care and general surgery.

    A fellowship costs you TWO years per year of fellowship. With a four-year deal you're looking at the original four years plus SIX more for allergy-immunlology, cardiology, endocrinology, etc. Not worth it by a longshot.

    You really have to want to serve to make this a worthwhile program. I have several friends who had to take transitional years because they didn't get what they wanted in the USAF. (They did not get a deferment, either.) Although they would have probably matched into a less-than-great locale, they would have gone into the field of their choice. Their futures are up in the air for another year and that is a lot of stress to have to endure. Besides, you can pay your loans back if you're wise with your money, and you don't have anyone forcing you to live in Minot, North Dakota.

    Think about before you take the plunge.
     
  6. Shiro

    Shiro New Member

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    I can't believe how people sign up for HPSP when they know so little about the reality of the whole situation. Don't feel bad. I did HPSP myself. Would I do it again? Probably not. I am an AF doc now. I would say about 20% of people who do HPSP end up the better for it. 50-60% of people get mildly screwed and realize their non-military classmates are probably better off. And then there is a good 25% of people who get really, really screwed. I mean career/life changing stuff. I would never recommend HPSP to a friend. The crapshoot is not worth it.
     

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