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pilot physician in AF, NAVY, or ANG

Discussion in 'Military Medicine' started by flyty, Dec 7, 2008.

  1. flyty

    7+ Year Member

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    I am currently a MS2 in and I was hoping that someone might have some advice/guidance. I am 23 years old and I have about 500 hours pilot in command of small single engine airplanes. I absolutely love aviation and I have always wanted to be a doctor (not sure what kind) and at the same time fly fighters in the military (very opposite goals - I know). I just assumed that they were too different to ever happen so I figured that I would apply for a HPSP spot in med school and try to become a flight surgeon (that way I could at least ride in fighters). However, in searching over the internet, I came upon this website and many other examples of physicians who were actually rated pilots in the military. This is very encouraging!

    I've heard of examples of Air Force docs who got accepted into the pilot physician program and even a senior med student applying to an Air National Guard's F-16 unit (Capt Davenport)! (http://www.f-16.net/interviews_article30.html) Full time physician and fighter pilot on the side! Amazing!

    At this point in my life I am finished with my Navy HPSP application and have not been accepted yet. I will probably have the christmas break and January to think about what I'm going to do but I really have no idea. There seems to be too many options and every one less clear than the first one. Basically I want to be very involved in aviation (flight surgeon and a rated fighter pilot if possible - the recruiter laughed at me when I told him this one). I would really appreciate any advice and guidance that you could give. Especially when it comes to which branch of the military would be the best route for acheiving my goal (ie. Navy, Air Force, or Air National guard) Thanks for your time in this matter.
     
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  3. BomberDoc

    BomberDoc ex-BomberDoc
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    Run! Run away! Get as far away from the military as possible if you want to have a career in medicine. Spend some time reading this forum and whatever you do, make an informed decision.
     
  4. IgD

    IgD The Lorax
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    Decide what you want to do. Medicine is a lifelong commitment not a part time job. Don't become a "jack of all trades, master of none".
     
    #3 IgD, Dec 7, 2008
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2008
  5. DogFaceMedic

    DogFaceMedic Member
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    THere are a few slots in the Navy for pilot-Docs. They are usually pilots first, then become physicians. Call the Navy and keep asking until you find someone who knows. There have been astronauts-physicians as well.

    Do what you want; don't listen to those who want to tell you what to do. ANd, if someone says you can't do something, keep going until you find someone who says you can.

    Airborne.
     
  6. flyty

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    Thanks for the encouragement! If anyone else knows of a good point of contact, please let me know.
     
  7. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California
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    My understanding is that the pilot then physician route is the ONLY one now. Someone posted a while back that the Navy hasn't put anyone through the physician to flight school program since the 1980's.
     
  8. BlueIsis

    BlueIsis Blue
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    This is true. The dual designator program is currently (and has been for 10 or so years) only for pilot to physician or pilot to aerospace physiologist. You must be a winged aviator to apply to the program.
     
  9. flyty

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    If that's the case, then does anyone know what the air force's policy is?
     
  10. mitchconnie

    mitchconnie Member
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    I don't doubt that there are isolated examples of people who successfully fill the pilot/physician role, but most of the time I think these programs are used as a "bait and switch" by recruiters. It's something that sounds really cool and gets you in the door, but later you find out that it isn't even really available to 99.99% of applicants.

    I haven't heard of any good operational rationale for producing such a dual--qualified individuals, and I think that's why the programs are extremely limited.

    Questions about the pilot/physician programs appear frequently on this board, and the conclusion is always the same--Don't sign up for HPSP if your goal is to fly. You'll be dissappointed.
     
  11. Eagledoc

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    Tyler, don't listen to the hype you hear on the blogs (e.g. Bomberdoc or IgD). The best way for you to find out about the program is obviously ask someone that is part of the program. Like *****holes, everyone has an opinion. You have to decide whether or not the source is valid. Do you believe the opinion of one when another may have the facts? I know Andy Davenport which you mentioned and it's true he has a great gig going. He's about to graduate from a combined residency of Internal Medicine and Aerospace medicine and yes, he's still flying the Viper (F-16) with the Kelly guard unit in San Antonio. I will tell you that a recruiter is probably not the best source for the program (see above) but you can find the right people to ask if you look around. For those that say you can only do this or that in life...be a master of one, etc., they obviously have made different choices in life which shouldn't affect your choices. That's the way they want to live and I would bet they've never had a ride in a fighter before! Regardless, it's up to you and no one else. Good luck and God's speed!
     
  12. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California
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    Good advice. The problem is when the program is virtually non-existant and you can't find a representative sample. this should set off alarm bells.
    Whoa! This borders on misinformation.

    The OP is asking about the possibility of going into milmed via HPSP and becoming a military pilot. Folks (including me) are questioning whether or not the program exists to the point of being a realistic option.

    You denounce this as naysaying, but the example you offer up is of someone who is in the Air National Guard. He is not active duty military. He could not have undertaken this option had he gone through HPSP.

    If you have examples of folks who've recently been successful in doing what the OP is proposing (going from HPSP to pilot via the AF or Navy), please give examples.

    If you don't have examples, suggesting that the OP sign up for anywhere from 7-14 years of obligated military service based on a program that no longer exists is just plain irresponsible.

    Again: examples of HPSP to pilot. I know of two or three who've done this, but this was in the 1970s and 1980s. I know for a fact that the Navy no longer runs this program. Do you know that the airforce does?

    If someone wants to take HPSP to become a TV star, I wouldn't give that plan the thumbs up just because the dude from the Bachelor did it. Bad advice.
     
  13. mitchconnie

    mitchconnie Member
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    I'm surprised to hear this degree of enthusiasm for the physician-to-fighter-pilot career track. Again...I don't doubt that it may be possible in certain very rare cases, but how many physicians in the last 5-7 years have been allowed to leave medical practice prior to the end of their commitment to pursue flight training? I'd be stunned if the number was more than five. I've met lots of former pilots who became physicians, but have never seen anyone who did it the other way around.

    If you were already comitted to the military, then I think the above is excellent advice--go for it. The worst thing that can happen is that you get told "no." But to take on an HPSP scholarship and all the negatives that go along with it as a means to get pilot training seems unwise to me. No matter how enthusiastic you are, you'll still face very long odds of being allowed to do what you want.

    And I'm not so sure that I would discount the opinions of BomberDoc. He was involved directly with the aviation community for three years as a flight surgeon.
     
  14. IgD

    IgD The Lorax
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    I'm curious what would the utility be of having a true physician-pilot? The military has flight surgeons and an aerospace medicine residency.

    Along the same lines, why don't we have soldier-physicians or Marine-physicians? I was a FMF qualified officer but that is the Marine Corps' equivalent to flight surgeons. It wouldn't seem like an efficient use of resources to have a GMO double as a company commander for example.

    I think the idea of "jack of all trades, master of none" is valid. If you are spending hundreds of hours maintaining flight status what impact would that have on your physician skills? It can't be positive.
     
  15. BlueIsis

    BlueIsis Blue
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    This is the crux of the problem. Most of the folks I worked with that were dual-designator eligible quickly changed their mind because you have to make compromises in both areas. I elected to fly first and then go to medical school.

    Dual-designated folks spent a ton of time trying to maintain NATOPS qualification in their aircraft and then couldn't even be used operationaly because of their clinic committments. For the most part they were in instructor pilot billets, but couldn't go on cross-countries (or do the other good-deal IP stuff) because of clinic obligations.

    What you got was an officer that had the aviation community torqued because they were always in the clinic and the medical community unhappy beacuse they were always off flying or doing something 'fun'. It sucks when you are chasing your tail and both sides think you are slacking. If you want to fly, be a pilot. If you want to practice medicine, be a physician. If you want to do both, series usual works out better than parallel if you are young enough.

    PS - There is nothing more annoying to an aviator or a spec-ops guy than a doctor who wants to do 'pilot' or 'SeAL' stuff instead of his job (taking care of those guys).
     
  16. Eagledoc

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    If you need an example...then why didn't you just ask. Too bad your information is so old (1970's and 80's). To be short, I'm that guy! I went to med school on an HPSP scholarship, became an active duty doctor during training, became a flight surgeon, applied to the active duty pilot training board, got picked up, became a pilot and am now a USAF pilot-physician. You wanted a real time example...well there you go. It's me. I know for a fact that the Air Force has a pilot physician program, the Air force service code (AFSC) is 48Vx. And I sure hope it's real otherwise my performance reports are going to look awfully whacky and the last 10 years of research have all been in vain! Of course it's real. If you suggest misinformation, I'd be sure to get your facts straight before you look ignorant; it's no excuse to use opinion to suggest you know something.
     
  17. Eagledoc

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    You ask good questions. And quite honestly in some respects you're right. If you plan on being a cardiothoracic surgeon or neurosurgeon or subspecialist of that nature, then your skills will probably suffer. Most pilot-physicians are primary care providers (fam, ER, Aerospace, IM, etc.). There are a few in the AF right now that are specialists - e.g. Ophthalmologist (although I don't think he's flying much these days), Orthopedics, and Derm. And if you want to know the truth about maintaining flying currency it's not hundreds of hours required. Once you finish the training it's very similar to maintaining a healthy reading habit. Vault study for weapons employment, simulator training, and weapons and tactics discussions are very similar to stuff we do in medicine (journal review, ACLS/PALS/ATLS, M&M discussion, peer review, etc.). Time management and prioritization are key and yes, I don't do an excellent job all the time. But again, it is possible.

    To address your comments of a company commander, etc. A PP will not typically be a Flying unit commander (read the AF regulation AFI 11-405) but will hold medical squadron commands. If he deploys as a combatant (pilot), he performs as such but he's not necessarily a commander. The other services may not have a program but I've met an F-18 pilot/physician when I was stationed at Nellis. They are out there but as everyone suggests; they are rare. The original post asked the question and for folks to suggest that HPSP is a bad deal or impossible is not in accordance with what I've experienced. I may be an oddity but again, it's not impossible and to be honest, I've had a great time so far and who knows what will be around the corner.
     
  18. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California
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    My information was Navy. I know nothing about the air force's program.
    So you attended flight school prior to paying back the military obligation owed from HPSP (the presumably four years)?
    My apologies. There is so much recruiter nonsense floating around SDN preying on the naive that when the OP asked about an example of someone who went HPSP to flight school and you mentioned the ANG pilot, my antennae started to wiggle.

    But you're right, I know next to nothing about the air force program and shouldn't have made assumptions. My apologies.
     
  19. MYF16

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    Contact me at [email protected] and I will be happy to assist. I have been in over 10 years. If you are qualified, you inquire at the perfect time as there is an age limit for pilot slots and you would need to navigate this with medical school/residency requirements. After you pass Step 1, start studying for the AFOQT.

    It usually takes 6 months-1 1/2 years to apply, interview, process paperwork, and just attain a school date in any reserve component of the Air Force for any job. Take that into account that UPT is a year, AMS is 6 weeks, water survival school is a week, land survival is 2 weeks and additional active duty for your unit training requirements. These schools and interview boards are only offered at certain times throughout the year. It's more realistic to plan for a 2-3 year process working in your med school and board exam requirements.
    Stay Fit and God Bless
     
  20. atomi

    atomi Member
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    Do you still have all the physical requirements for UPT?

    Maximum correctable vision in right eye is 20/40 due to amblyopia. Left is is 20/40 correctable to 20/20 (myopic).

    I was told many times that I would be auto dq'ed. But I never pursued this with a recruiter. I just accepted was I was told by flight surgeons (I am not currently military) whom I asked. FWIW I currently have PPL FAA class III med and 100 hrs.
     
  21. JToth1983

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    I know this is an old forum but I was wondering if anyone had any info. I'm currently an air national guard KC-135 pilot and interested in becoming a physician. Does anyone know if the Air Force has a program to send a rated pilot to medical school? Or would I have to take on med-school finances on my own?
     
  22. Cooperd0g

    Cooperd0g Something witty goes here.
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    Do you currently owe any commitment? If not, it will be easier, if so, then you will have to be released from your current warfare specialty (at least that is how it is for the Navy). Depending on manning that may or may not be likely. I don't know about a specific Air Force program as I'm a Navy guy, but if you took the HPSP scholarship or went to USUHS the mil would pay for school. Being a rated aviator already would put you front of the line to be a Aeromedical Dual Designator.
     

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