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Need Some Advice Please

Discussion in 'Military Medicine' started by notgettingin, May 5, 2007.

  1. notgettingin

    2+ Year Member

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    Hello Everyone!

    I am new to the Armed Forces thing. I will be starting medical school in August of this year- Saint Louis University- and have been really scared about accruing 250,000 worth of debt over 4 years. I began thinking about the military option, and I just got off the phone with a recruiter who went in depth about the HPSP (or whatever)- the scholarship that offers to pay for medical school if you give the Navy 5 years. Anyway, I have a number of questions, and hopefully someone will be able to answer them for me.

    1) What requirements/obligations do you have to do for the Navy while in medical school?

    2) The Recruiter mentioned that you have the option to do the civilian match, and then defer your service until it's over. I am wary because I have heard horror stories about how the military lies to you. Is this seriously an option?

    3) If I choose to do the military match, is the residency training good? Do you have the full range of options/specialties available in the civilian match?

    4) Does the Navy have the right to assign me to a job other than being a physician- ie. combat, etc?

    5) Can I serve my 5 years, and then get out? Does the Navy have the discretion to re-enlist me?

    6) How hard is it to make a transition from the military (after serving 5 years, assuming I go with the civilian match option) to civilian medicine? Is a military doctor looked down upon by "civilian" physicians. Or in other words, is the training and experience woefully inadequate to transfer?

    7) I am female. What is the general female/male ratio in these types of programs?

    Sorry this is so long. I searched a lot of the threads, but a lot of the answers use Army/Navy acronyms which I don't understand. I have very basic, limited knowledge, so any advice someone could give me would be fantastic!
     
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  3. NavyFP

    NavyFP Senior Member
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    Now I am very pro-Navy, I am glad you are asking the tough questions before you sign on the dotted line. If you are doing it purely for the money, I think you may be making a mistake. Do you have any desire to be in the Navy? If no, I am not sure I can recommend this scholarship for you.
     
  4. The White Coat Investor

    The White Coat Investor AKA ActiveDutyMD
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    When did it go from 4 years to 5 years?
     
  5. The White Coat Investor

    The White Coat Investor AKA ActiveDutyMD
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    Not too hard, assuming you moonlight while you're in and don't want to do anything too exotic. For example, an anesthesiologist I work with who did lots of hearts as a resident believes he would need to practice for 6 months in a supervised environment before he could do hearts again because he didn't do any during his 4 year commitment. For me, assuming I do some moonlighting, I don't think it will be hard to transition at all.

    Yes, by some. With good reason in some fields.

    Maybe not woefully.
     
  6. AF M4

    AF M4 Junior Member
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    Hey, a SLU student! Hi, I'm a 4th year graduating from MU med school in about a week, and I got the Air Force HPSP scholarship for 3 of the 4 years of med school, and I've got a couple of buddies on the HPSP too, one in the AF, one in the Army, one in the Navy. I'm giving you these bona fides because you really really really REALLY need to listen to what I'm about to say.

    Don't do it. Don't sign up with the military right now, in any branch but especially not the Navy. Feel free to PM me for more details, but here's the nuts and bolts:

    I went AF because most people who do Navy are guaranteed to spend at least a year on a boat somewhere away from any kind of residency training. The classmate I have in the Navy matched into one of the Navy's Ortho slots, but she's still scared because they've told her there's a good chance that they'll pull her from the ortho program after her intern year for a couple of tours of sick call duty on a ship somewhere. My personal story involves getting 99th percentile board scores and trying for an AF residency in ER, but they've cut the residency slots so much that only people who've been out in the field for several years can get one. So I'm going to do an intern year and then have to spend 3 years messing around as a flight surgeon before I can (hopefully) cut the cord on my military service. My buddy in the AF wanted to do radiology, but he got the same shaft I did. So yes, your recruiter lied to you because they've taken away the possibility of doing civilian residencies in most of the branches because they need more GMOs and flight surgeons - you do not have an "option" in this matter unless the military decides that you do.

    You should also be aware that your recruiter is likely similar to the ones around MU, in that they're willfully ignorant of the current state of military medicine. For instance, when I spoke to a recruiter during a presentation I did advising potential HPSP students of the risks of signing on to the HPSP and mentioned the current residency matching screwjob, he replied that it wasn't his department. And really, why would he want to know something that will force him to lie (if he doesn't want to hurt his recruitment rates) when he can just not try to find out and give recruits more palatable but obsolete information instead?

    So anyway, it sounds like you're scared of the money. And it's a lot of money, don't get me wrong - I know when I was in your shoes four years ago I couldn't imagine where I was going to get that much cash. But here's the deal: imagine the day seven years (! :) ) from now when you're going to get your first monthly paycheck as an attending. (Google the salary of the kind of doctor you want to be. Go ahead, I'll wait.) Now think of how long it's going to take to pay off your loans getting that kind of money. I actually ran the numbers for a presentation I did a couple of months ago and despite the fact that the military pays for med school, when you factor in the discrepancy between military and civilian physician salaries you actually lose money in the long term by opting for the military route. And that's before having to mess with all the residency match junk I mentioned above, and without having to go to someplace like Iraq or worry about being told where to live and what to do for several years of your life. I wish I hadn't done the military thing, and plan to get out at the earliest opportunity. Right now military medicine is a mess because the entire military (including medical) is eating itself alive so that it can stagger on a little while longer providing supervision for Iraqis as they fight their civil war, and you really don't want to be a part of it because it's going to take at least a decade before milmed recovers (if it ever does) after we leave Iraq (if we ever do).

    So from one Missourian to another (if you are actually from MO :) ), here's the honest-to-God truth: This is not a deal you want to make. Stay away. Some of us are in this and can't get out, but that doesn't mean that we can't warn others. Spread the word, and stay away from the HPSP.

    Good luck.
     
  7. BigNavyPedsGuy

    BigNavyPedsGuy Junior Member
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    I'm Navy and I'd have to agree with AF M4 on this one. So far, I've been blessed enough to have things go my way, but if you take a military scholarship you have a much higher chance of getting screwed. If I had to decide to today I wouldn't do it - and I haven't even gotten the shaft (to date).
     
  8. orbitsurgMD

    orbitsurgMD Senior Member
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    Don't be afraid of the money. The majority of medical students borrow and are able to repay their loans and have normal, productive and enjoyable careers while maximizing their opportunities to obtain decent and complete training. The military services want to frighten you over the borrowing; it is one of the tools they use to recruit. Their money deal isn't all that great as an alternative and with the restrictions they will place on your opportunities to get full training--particularly the Navy--their offer is really not a very good deal at all. I agree with the posters above, do not take an HPSP contract. If when you finish medical school and have a place in a residency program somewhere you have the desire to join then, there will be FAP or something similar available to you without so many strings attached.
     
  9. Rudy

    Rudy Member
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    AF M4 is absolutely correct in his assessment. I am a USUHS grad who will probably lose at least $500k (conservative guess) in potential earnings by having gone the military route. Even worse than that though, is that AF GME has been reduced to smoldering ruins from its prior status even 10 years ago, to the point that in some residencies, you may not be getting quality training. You cannot put a price tag on the damage that could do to your career--you only get one chance to do a residency.

    Finally, when you get out, you may be sent to some small base where if you are a specialist, you will struggle to maintain your hard-earned skills from residency. Again, you can't put a price tag on how much this would cost you.

    I would gladly take $250k in debt if I could go back in time and avoid military medicine. It is not worth it to do it for the money, especially when the financial side of it really does not make sense.

    You have done the right thing by thinking carefully about your decision; I would pay close attention to the perspectives that you read on this website.
     
  10. Ex-44E3A

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    As an ex-AF ER doc, I'd concur that everything AF M4 said is true.

    Read carefully and pay attention on this forum before you sign ANYTHING... you'll save yourself an unimaginable amount of hassle.
     
  11. The White Coat Investor

    The White Coat Investor AKA ActiveDutyMD
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    What base were you at? PM if you like.
     
  12. notgettingin

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    Thanks everyone for the advice. After some more research and hearing what you all have to say, I don't think signing up for this is a good idea. I really appreciate your honesty and feedback!
     
  13. AF M4

    AF M4 Junior Member
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    Vaya con Dios.
     

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