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Military Physician

Have you ever wanted to practice medicine, travel the world, and serve your country all at the same time? If so, joining a branch of the armed forces could be the perfect move for you. The military is often an overlooked and underappreciated opportunity for those looking to pursue a career in medicine. Whether it be the army, navy, or air force, there are endless opportunities for physicians in all specialties, not just those related to combat. Contrary to popular belief, the military still needs physicians in specialties such as pediatrics, geriatrics, dermatology, and many more. There is a common train of thought that leads us to believe that just because you are in the military you have to be around conflict. This is not true. Military members and their families are still in need of care that all civilians need. Despite almost always being deployed at one point or another, many physicians are still never directly exposed to conflict. With that being said, let's dive into how you can get there. There are two primary paths to becoming a physician in the military, HPSP and USUHS. The first and most common track is to apply for the Health Professions Scholarship Program. HPSP gives students an incredibly flexible route to becoming a licensed physician, as you can attend any medical school you choose, and experience training that is quite similar to civilians. Of course the biggest draw to this route is that your tuition will be entirely paid for. That's right. Your entire tuition for medical school will be paid for by the military. In addition, you will be given a monthly stipend to pay for housing and other living expenses. Pretty sweet right? You will still have to attend basic training sometime around your second year of medical school, but of the two tracks is less physically demanding. You will also be given the opportunity to become active duty during your third and fourth year of medical school, doing internships and clinicals in the military setting. The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) provides a more military feel compared to a more civilian feel that HPSP provides. USUHS is the military’s medical school in Bethesda, Maryland. Like HPSP, your tuition is entirely paid for and you will actually be paid as an officer. You will become very familiar with how the military medical system works and be more involved with field drills, exercises, and training. This route is less flexible than HPSP, so that is something to consider. While in the military, you will still have access to all specialties available to civilians, and will have a higher chance of matching into your first choice of specialty thanks to the military’s match program. This match program is more forgiving than its civilian counterpart. So what's the catch? The military will pay for education, allow you to apply to any school you want, pay for your housing, and provide you opportunities you can't find as a civilian. The catch is that you are required to serve a certain number of years in your respective branch. HPSP usually requires 4 years of service while USUHS typically requires around 7 years. Of course there are many other downsides as well. Being deployed to an active war zone is the first thing that comes to mind, for obvious reasons. You will have to learn to adapt to uncomfortable situations and new territory. In certain circumstances you might be asked to perform a procedure or provide care to a patient that is not within your specialty. You will also have to deal with being away from home, friends and family, and a sense of normal life. In fact, where you are transferred and deployed to are almost completely up to the military. The amount of flexibility regarding location is in fact quite small. The next downside is a big difference in pay. Civilian doctors can be paid up to 2 or 3 times that of a military doctor. However, most military physicians do not have to pay off the immense amount of debt civilians do, and while in service have drastically lower living costs. You should not become a doctor for the money, but if you are planning on living a ultra extravagant lifestyle, civilian life might financially prepare you better than the military. There are certainly many downsides, but once again there are still many upsides. As with any career in the military, you will get to travel the world and explore new cultures. You will be given opportunities to be at the forefront of medical innovation that the civilian world may not have widespread access to yet. You will be able to serve the red, white, and blue and help others and their families that do the same. In order to find out more information, you can contact a military recruiter to find more information and how to sign up and apply for HPSP or USUHS.

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