Army, Navy, or AF?

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Jun 27, 2005
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1) I am currently a first year medical student at a US Med School, and was considering HPSP... can anyone tell me what the difference would be between the three HPSP scholarships (aside from the obvious)?

2) Does each expect you to go to residency at one of their hospitals, and not a civilian program? If you want to go to a civilian program, does that extend your active duty obligation, etc?

3) If I am deadset on applying for a general surgery residency, and later on a trauma fellowship, what do you think about each of the three branches... for example, is it worth it to apply to AF HPSP with little expectation of combat trauma?

4) One last thing: How does it affect your active duty commitment if you're applying for a 5-yr residency (eg general surgery) as opposed to a 3-yr residency (eg EM)? Does it lengthen your obligation if you add on a fellowship to your residency?

I am a little confused about all of this (I think they do that on purpose at times) and would like some sound advice before signing anything... any responses would be greatly appreciated... Thank you!

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Have you checked out the threads that answer these questions in the "stickies" area?
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In the Navy and AF hospitals are there any animal labs to facilitate medical research. And if so are there also instruments and equipment such as -70 freezers and liquid nitrogen, centrifuges, spectrometers, and imagery tools. Microscopes that have decent quantitative recording capabilities?

I know that research is not heavy in the military. But I would like to continually work on small projects and I would like to know if there are core facilities that I would be able to utilize.

Also would there be opportunity to collaborate with civilian investigators?

I feel your pain brother, the info is scarce. I was active duty and did all the footwork myself. The Navy's numbers are DOWN, yet I still had to do all the legwork. But, that's the nature of dealing with a big company.

So what's the difference? Navy, you're going to live on a coast, or at a Marine Corps base, on a coast. If you're looking to do trauma stuff, you want to be with a marine unit, and unfortunately, you want to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan, other than that, and this is not first hand knowledge, it's gonna be motorcycle accidents, and they generally just get taken to the closest hospital. Army, biggest branch, biggest beaucracry. Could see some cool stuff, other great chances to get to Iraq and Afghanistan where you will practice real medicine, and the hospital is pretty safe, but no family. Air Force, envious of Army, big beaucracy, supposedly best quality of life. Terrible uniforms, great if you are looking to moonlight as a bus driver.

All branches have their pros and cons, but all said, med corps is probably the most joint of all the different branches and communities, cause a doctor is a doctor, right? When I was in Charleston (SC, not WV), I had to go to an Air Force base, where I was seen by a Navy Opthamologist.

Before you sign up for HPSP, do a lot of research and be very aware of what you are getting into. It sounds like you will commit to a three year deal, that is if you don't do a residency. Residency equals 1 for 1 payback, three year residency, three year payback, I think on top of the other three for med school. So, be fully aware that you truly are prostituting yourself for them to pay for school. This isn't necessarily bad, you just need to accept it. If you find during your internship you hate the hold the miltary has on your life, you quick out is do a general medical officer tour for the remaining two years and get out. However, you won't have 200k debt, and will have taken a two year detour from your life. And then you get to go replay match.

Pay attention to what people complain about here. In general, in the miliatary, you complain, so you have to take that into account. What you should take seriously is the surgeon's complaints about their field, ie low caseload. I would think that would drive you towards going for a civilian deferment, which I honstly don't know how that affects your commitment.

Best of luck, it's different for everyone. I already have seven years in, and like the military, just didn't like my previous job. 13 more, and I have a pension for life, so it simplified my decision. 13 years should cover my training and payback for training, so it was easier for me. For you, I don't know. Know this, the contractual obligations are higher than they were for ROTC or the Academies, since you a college grad you should know what you are getting into. What this means is that once you sign, three months in you realize it isn't for you, you will not be happy, they will get their time from you, and they don't generally like to just be bought out, especially with a doctor shortage.
...However, you won't have 200k debt, and will have taken a two year detour from your life. And then you get to go replay match.

I know i'm resurrecting an old thread here, but the above segment made me curious:

Does anyone know how common is it for people to enter a certain residency (military or civ), but then realize they don't like that specialty and want to switch?

In one of my last threads, there was a statement that GMO tours can actually benefit those who are undecided on their specialty choice as the GMO gives them more time to decide before applying for a match. How many would agree with this?

One last thing, sort of off topic. Does marital status play any part whatsoever on who gets to do a residency instead of a GMO tour? Would being single be the ideal status if you actually want to do a GMO tour, let's say, as a flight surgeon?

Thanks in advance for any advice.
It's not uncommon for people to start a residency and bail out part way through. Lots of surgical residents go to anesthesia, usually without a GMO tour. It would be harder to jump into urology, jump into surgery from medicine, or jump to derm/ophtho without a GMO tour.

The other question that comes up is can you complete 1 residency (or fellowship) then apply to do a different one. That one is harder to do, but I have seen it done. Usually you're required to do at least 2-3 years in your field before they let you retrain. It also matters how many apps for the slot you're looking for. They take all new comers first.
Guess it boils down to whether you want to be a bus driver (AF), Lepreachaun (you're after me lucky charms Army!) or a an ice cream man. Ice cream is only on the coasts, so maybe that is important.
look into national guard as well, from what my friend tells me it's a much better option than the above 3.