Aug 26, 2015
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I have been researching military medicine in hopes of eventually pursuing a career in it but had a few questions:
1. I read about the five levels of care in the military and was wondering if you are mainly working in one level most of the time depending on your abilities or if it depends on where you're deployed/stationed? And do you have any say in which level you work at?
2. I am interested in becoming an orthopedic surgeon and was wondering what you do when you're not deployed. Do you still get the chance to do orthopedic surgery? And how do they keep you prepared for when you do get deployed and will have to deal with injuries much worse?
3. How competitive is it to become an orthopedic surgeon in the military? I was considering applying for the HPSP scholarship but orthopedic surgery is what I really want to do. I guess what I was wondering was would I have a good chance of getting the scholarship, going through medical school, and getting an orthopedic surgery military residency or would it be more logical to not apply for the scholarship, get through medical school, get a civilian orthopedic surgery residency (since there are more available than in the military), and then enlist as an orthopedic surgeon after residency?

(This is all assuming I can get into medical school, make it through, and even meet the criteria for military medicine- which, I know is a big if- but I want to have all the details before deciding whether or not to apply for the scholarship since that's such a big commitment.)
 
Nov 6, 2014
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(This is all assuming I can get into medical school, make it through, and even meet the criteria for military medicine- which, I know is a big if- but I want to have all the details before deciding whether or not to apply for the scholarship since that's such a big commitment.)
Pretty big assumptions. Have you taken the MCAT yet?
 

HighPriest

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So while in principal, I agree that you might be leap-frogging your immediate concerns, I can't say that I remember seeing specific answers to these questions elsewhere in the forum....so...

I'm not an orthopaedic surgeon, but I can speak to some of these:

1. Usually as a surgeon you're working in a hospital setting wherein you're doing surgery - in this case, ortho. When deployed, you could end up as far forward as a level II. Going to a level I would be unusual. Orthopaedic surgeons are deployed quite often for obvious reasons, and along with general surgeons are deployed far forward - but typically only so far as they can still provide surgical support of some kind. You have zero say insofar as where you're deployed unless you volunteer, and then you have the illusion of a say.

2. When you're not deployed, you do orthopaedic surgery, mostly. However the military is burdened with an astronomical amount of paperwork (which you will not be able to delegate in any way), and so you will almost certainly not do as much as your civilian counterpart would do - especially at a major civilian trauma center. Additionally, there is the possibility (especially in the Army) of a brigade surgeon billet, which would lead you to not operating for a two year period, and likely deploying as a paper-pusher/family medicine doc. Always remember that while the military hospital may consider you an orthopaedic surgeon, the big Army just considers you to be a physician, NOS.

3. It is extremely competative to become an orthopaedic surgeon in the military. Ortho is a very competative specialty in general, and it is one of the few specialties that really does mesh with the military patient demographic. I think your question is a bit misplaced, however. It isn't easy to go to medical school, graduate, get an ortho residency, and graduate - REGARDLESS (or irregardless) of whether you're HPSP or not. So my advice to you would be to be more concerned with actually accomplishing those base goals first. Always keep in mind that everyone wants to do a hotshot residency until they're actually in med school, and then people flee that notion like rats on a burning ship. However, IF you get to medical school AND you still want to be an orthopaedic surgeon, AND you score well enough to make that a plausible reality, THEN I would still tell you to do a civilian residency and then consider military service. Why? Because of a multitude of reasons already posted on this forum.
 
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