JRCOSTEP, SRCOSTEP onto PHS career in IHS - Questions.

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Looking for some guidance about a career in IHS through PHS.

My situation: 35 year old just accepted into medical school for 2009. (I'll be 40 when I graduate, 43 when I finish a family med, IM, or Peds residency - meaning I should just sneak in under the 44 year old age limit if I want a career with PHS).

Here are my questions.

1) How competitive are the JRCOSTEPs and SRCOSTEPs? How do I make myself competitive for those programs?
2) I understand that flexibility with assignments comes with the territory of a PHS officer career. I'm interested in working for the IHS in the Southwest (NM, NV, AZ, etc.) Are those sought after positions or would I be likely to be able to get stationed in a position like that? Or are there areas of even greater need that I'd be more likely to be stationed at?
3) How does residency play into a PHS career? Are you just on inactive reserve while you're training? Can you be pulled while in residency?
4) Other than the loss of certain autonomy as a uniformed service officer are there any other downsides to a PHS career?

Thanks for your input!
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