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Army Dentistry - One man's perspective

Discussion in 'Military Dentistry' started by Destiny11, Jan 21, 2014.

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  1. Destiny11

    Destiny11 7+ Year Member

    680
    23
    Mar 2, 2010
    One man's view...thoughts? I am concerned with #5.

    Why am I getting out?
    I keep getting this question so I figure it is time to publicly address it. My normal response is “Well, it’s just my time to go.” But now that the dust has settled and I look back objectively at the decision to leave the Army, five main factors stand out as critical in my decision-making process. Here they are, in no particular order:
    1. Geographical Control. I have been in the Army for just over five years and have had three Permanent Changes of Stations (PCS): Georgia, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania. On top of that we moved once at our own expense when I went to Afghanistan. That is four moves in five years. To stay competitive in my branch I would have to move at least once more for residency and once more for a follow on assignment after residency. Including the moves I made growing up in the military that brings the total number of PCSs in my life to 19. I’m exhausted and do not want to keep doing this any longer. I’m also not willing to do that to my wife and kids. There are rumors in the Army about getting away from moving soldiers every few years, but even two more relocations are too many. Especially when I have very little control over where I would go.

    2. Quality of Life. I am not talking about living conditions. When I say “quality of life” I’m talking about not getting to choose where I want to live, and being told how to dress, groom, behave, communicate, think, etc. It’s a lot of small stuff, but small stuff adds up over five years and takes a toll. Vehicle inspections, leave forms, having to wear the Army Combat Uniform to work every single day only to change into scrubs once I get there. Constant Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention training, Suicide Prevention training, Anti-terrorism training and Cyber-security training. The list keeps getting longer! Micromanagement of how I practice dentistry and live my life – on and off duty. Being treated as if I have the morals of a felon and the decision making skills of a fifteen year old gets old fast.

    3. Organizational Future. This is a big concern across the Army. Sequestration is real and budget cuts are coming. And they are going to be huge. I’m just guessing here, but I would not be surprised to see certain dental special pays cut (or even eliminated) as well as supply budgets, moneys for continuing education and training, and even retirement and health care benefits. I also have concerns that DENCOM may go the way of VETCOM and get absorbed under MEDCOM somehow. I think that situation is a remote possibility, but it would be devastating for the Dental Corps.

    4. Leadership Examples. Let me be clear, I am not criticizing the chain of command. My concern is that there are few senior officers in the Dental Corps that a junior dentist can look up to. Don’t get me wrong, there are some that I think are amazing – both as clinicians and Army officers. But sadly, many of the ones I have worked with are bitter, disgruntled, and out of touch. So why would a junior dentist decide to spend a career in the Army when so many of those who have done so seem bitter about it?

    5. Culture and Loss of Faith. I have concerns about working for an organization with a culture that does not appear to value sacrifice, selfless service, or experience. The Army Dental Corps is the only branch I know that continues to reward officers who have conveniently “opted out” of participating in the War on Terror. Last year Army Graduate Dental Education selected dental students over senior Captains and Majors for the Endodontic Residency Program. I was one of the senior Captains who was passed over in favor of less experienced officers. The organization’s message was clear: we do not value your service, the sacrifices you made for your nation, or your military record enough to select you for residency training. After that incident I simply lost faith in the organization. And that faith never recovered.

    Notice what wasn’t on the list: Money or Deployments. Those issues had very little effect on my decision to stay or go whatsoever. Some would be surprised by that.

    Benefits of HPSP
    I wanted to take a break from my usual writing to put some information out there about the financial benefits of the HPSP program. I know there are a lot of dental students and future dental students who read this blog so here is some information for you. And with the rising cost of dental education this is becoming more and more important.

    When I was in dental school, a classmate gave me a hard time about taking the Army scholarship. He said it was financially a foolish move and that I could make so much more money in the civilian world. I explained to him that my decision to come in the Army was not about the money in my particular case, but a desire to serve. He couldn’t argue with that one, but remained adamant that I got a raw deal.

    So after five years in the Army I am looking back and re-evaluating the cost benefits of this scholarship. All non-financial issues aside, this program was totally worth it. Here is my rationale using the in-state numbers from my dental school in todays dollars.

    Tuition and living expenses for 4 years: $336,131. I’m assuming a Stafford loan with the current default* 6.8% interest rate and the standard 10 year payback. Using a student loan calculator, a new dentist from my dental school would need $3,868 a month to pay that loan off in ten years. Over the ten-year term of the loan, he would pay $128,053 in interest bringing the total cost of his dental undergraduate education to $464,184.

    Now lets run those numbers based on a 4 year commitment to the Army – meaning your dental school loan is paid off in four years, not ten. With those same numbers, a new dentist wanting to beat the HPSP would have to find $8,017 in his monthly budget to pay off that loan. That is $96,204 a year in student loans. That is feasible if you are a practice owner, but an associate making a generous $110,000 a year would have to live off of about $14 grand a year for four years to beat the HPSP.

    So here I am at almost the five-year mark (I had a five-year commitment because I completed an AEGD). My dental school is almost paid off. I’m in a pretty good position to buy a nice practice and a nice home – or do whatever I want without having to worry about paying that huge note if I choose to leave the military.

    http://armydentistry.com/
     
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  3. Bis-GMA111

    Bis-GMA111 7+ Year Member

    1,964
    117
    Nov 7, 2010
    Army
    Here's my take..

    As you stated, it is one man's views, and from what I can tell...he seemed a bit frustrated/disappointed when he wrote this blog entry.

    From what I've gathered I see someone who worked his rear end off to do a lot for the Army's dental corps, only to have been let down in the end, whether it came down to being denied for an endo spot, or just having to deal with a lot of mundane work related issues in the Army. In his previous blogs, you'll notice he writes a lot about army life, both from a doctor and officer's perspective. It seems that he valued his job as a healthcare provider and officer, but it just got to a point where he wanted a change and more personal freedom. Can't blame him for that, in my opinion.

    I'd also take it with a grain of salt. This is just one officer's story.
     
  4. AirborneDentist

    AirborneDentist 7+ Year Member

    367
    53
    May 15, 2009
    Ft. Huachuca, AZ
    Dentist
    Army
    One thing I would like to add...

    After sitting on a residency selection board, something many officers do not realize..and I did not prior to sitting on one...

    Many of these people that he refers to about getting selected to a residency out of school...well..many of them are prior officers, prior enlisted...or the like..they have deployments under their belt. They are not "all" your average dental school student.

    Furthermore, I do not think a deployment outweighs a good student. I know MANY officers that were in residencies with many deployments under their belt who could not handle the academics of a residency. I am not saying they are not good officers...they just were not cut out for the academic challenges of a residency. I also know many people that came straight from school into a residency and excelled. What is the goal of a residency?? It is to produce a competent dentist in that area...not to reward someone for deploying.

    Bottom line: a deployment does not make up for a 2.5 GPA in dental School. A deployment is not going to help you on your mock boards. However, a good GPA/work ethic will.

    I used to think the same way he does...but after sitting through a board, and through a residency, I cannot agree with him any longer.
     
  5. Destiny11

    Destiny11 7+ Year Member

    680
    23
    Mar 2, 2010
    Now that you have sat on the board...why did you think that you did not get into a 1yr residency out of school? What are your thoughts on students been offered a 1yr AEGD + specialty spot at the same time? Are you saying if you don't have good grades in dental school, then you probably won't have a good chance to specialize later on in the military career?
     
  6. Hedgy

    Hedgy 7+ Year Member

    210
    120
    Sep 22, 2009
    Montana
     
  7. AirborneDentist

    AirborneDentist 7+ Year Member

    367
    53
    May 15, 2009
    Ft. Huachuca, AZ
    Dentist
    Army
    Hello,

    I didn't get into a one year...probably because my grades were not that good in school...and the one year process was a little different almost 10 years ago...

    You bring up other great questions that are often discussed among many of us. Grades are an important indicator of how academically devoted and focused a person is. However, it is not the only thing. Given an officer with only a year or 2 with average grades, or a person graduating dental school with a 3.8 and ranked #5 in their class....is there really a comparison?

    On a side note, I understand how it is easy to be disturbed when seeing the results for residency selection. However, it is deceiving if you just look at CPT vs LT. This is because many of these CPTs that are selected for residency have only a year or two in as well. The majority of them are not seasoned officers with a huge military record.

    I hope that helps answer your question. I cannot give you a direct answer on the others...as I have not come to a complete opinion on them...and it would only be my opinion, and would not ever influence a board procedure.
     
  8. Destiny11

    Destiny11 7+ Year Member

    680
    23
    Mar 2, 2010
    Thank you for your thoughts! What about retention of junior officers? Is that still a problem?
     
  9. AirborneDentist

    AirborneDentist 7+ Year Member

    367
    53
    May 15, 2009
    Ft. Huachuca, AZ
    Dentist
    Army
    Hello,

    Retention numbers are VERY high. Overall, we are very good. However, we are short, as usual in certain areas...like 63B and oral surgeons. Overall, very good though.
     
  10. ElCid

    ElCid Member 10+ Year Member

    40
    0
    Jul 8, 2003
    Dentist
    Army
    Im glad to see people are still talking about my blog. I started it to serve as a resource for potential HPSP applicants to use to really see both sides of the coin before making the decision to serve as a dentist in the military. I'm continually pleased to see it fulfill its intent.

    To address the original posters concern with my #5 reason for leaving the Army:

    Maybe I was bitter when I wrote the blog post, but I was not one bit surprised I didn't get into the residency. In fact, I was told point blank that I would never get selected because of my blog. I wasn't even going to bother applying but my Commander really encouraged me to give it a shot. For some reason I thought that the selection board was objective - only looking at records, letters of recommendation, grades, etc. Not so much...

    Now that Im out of the Army and looking back at the blog, I can't believe I didn't get fired for writing some of the stuff I did! I should have been Court Martialed and made an example of. Deep down I knew the blog would be a career ender when I sat down with my Dad back in November of 2010 and told him I was going to start writing online about the ups and downs of being an Army Dentist. And not do it anonymously. (And thanks Dad for encouraging me to do it anyway.)

    You can't expect to badmouth the organization you work for and not suffer some recourse. But to counter AirborneDentist's argument, I wasn't just some newbie CPT with a 2.5 GPA who wanted to be an endodontist. I was a senior CPT recently selected for MAJ, with a 3.4 dental school GPA, a pretty darn good military record, and who graduated 2nd out of 8 AEGD residents in his class. So I think I demonstrated my academic ability pretty well. But that simply doesn't make up for being an officer with a reputation for stirring the pot. There was no way someone like me should have been selected for a Dental Corps specialty residency. And I wasn't.

    In hindsight, the Army was a great place to practice dentistry. There are some great things about being an Army dentist. But like I have said many times, theres a lot of downside to it too. You just have to be informed and really understand what you're getting into.
     
  11. krmower

    krmower 7+ Year Member

    1,682
    54
    Jul 23, 2008
    Dentist
    Army
    Thanks Mike and Eric. Thought all of your posts are excellent and great information for current or future HPSPers. Good luck in SC Mike.
     
  12. armycivdentist

    armycivdentist

    2
    3
    Jun 7, 2014
    I don't know who AirborneDentist is, but he is obviously pro-dental corps. I have worked for the army dental corps and I can tell you it is a toxic horrible situation. Everything Destiny11 said is true. In the clinics where I've worked we have full bird colonels, O-6 rank, who sit around and don't do a d*mn bit of work. Their production, even those with NO administrative duties, is pathetic. The few patients the schedule are usually scheduled for a ridiculous amount of time, OR rescheduled to someone else last minute! They get paid a lot and DO VIRTUALLY NOTHING! Then after 20 years a retirement check! It's ridiculous. Every decent person I've met has gotten out at their earliest opportunity. Those who stay in are, this is just my experience mind you, usually lazy, hate doing even the smallest amount of work, and on top of that, harass those of us who were working to work harder! My production in less than ONE WEEK was much higher than they managed to do in ONE MONTH!!! Again, these are people who ar 100% clinical, no admin duties, not the OIC, not a commander. Yes they might have some additional duty like being the safely officer, but they are designated clinical. When one of the GS or contract dentist have a cancellation, most of the active army slide the patient into the others books and goof off. One actually verbalized they were tired of working and that is why they went active! It's pathetic!!!
     
  13. Destiny11

    Destiny11 7+ Year Member

    680
    23
    Mar 2, 2010
    Whoa now...I didn't say anything. Besides, each dentist has the option to schedule more if they wanted to. Most probably don't because you are not paid based on production or collections.
     
  14. AirborneDentist

    AirborneDentist 7+ Year Member

    367
    53
    May 15, 2009
    Ft. Huachuca, AZ
    Dentist
    Army

    You can figure out who I am...I have my picture and my signature block...

    Now, care to identify yourself with all the statements you made?
     
  15. rkcook2

    rkcook2

    1
    0
    Jul 26, 2014
    I've been in for 2 years now- I wouldn't call the Army's dental corps a "toxic horrible situation." There are frustrations and challenges, but no organization is immune to problems. I've been extremely fortunate. My wife (also an Army dentist) and I both got a 1-year AEGD at our top location, we got stationed at that same location after the AEGD, and I'm assigned to the best unit in the Army (my opinion, of course). I've got buddies that want out and I've got buddies that want to make it a career. In my opinion, the number one draw is that a soldier can get exactly what he needs- no selling treatment plans.

    Knowing what you're getting into and being aware of the challenges will go a long way but you may still find out it's not for you. There are plenty of horror stories out there, but I got exactly the training I wanted, at my #1 location, and now I'm in the unit for which I joined the Army (sounds weird- didn't want to end with a preposition).
     

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