We have created this website for individuals considering a career as a military physician, for current medical students of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) and for those attending a civilian medical school under the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). It's purpose is to promote understanding of Military Graduate Medical Education (GME) in terms that someone new to the military can understand. While we may not be able to answer all questions, we intend this site to give the reader a general overview of the subject. Enabling them with the basic knowledge and resources necessary to find answers to any additional questions they may have.
Why Military GME?
The medical system of the Armed Services has a unique mission. Not only do they care for military members and their dependents in the United States, but they also must be ready to deploy and practice medicine closer to wherever a conflict may be. They also deploy on humanitarian missions to "win the hearts and minds" of those in foreign lands to prevent war. The mission of the military's medical system requires unique training; and thus they have their own unique training programs.
What is Military GME?
After a physician completes 4 years of medical school, their training is not over. They must then complete an internship (also called PGY1 or Post Graduate Year 1) and then a residency (also termed GME or Graduate Medical Education). An internship typically lasts one year and a residency can last from three to seven years depending on the specialty that you choose. Military GME is not much different from civilian GME in that virtually all specialties and sub-specialties are represented. Joining the military will not limit the specialties from which a medical student may choose. For information about which specialties are offered by the different military branches and where the training programs are located, View the page Specialties & Locations of this site.
Medical students who attend USUHS or those who have a military obligation through HPSP, ROTC or a service academy are required to apply for the military's graduate medical education program. Not all who apply will "match" in military GME. Those who don't "match" may be authorized to apply for a civilian residency.
Typical prospective students of USUHS or those considering a HPSP scholarship ask a variety of questions regarding residency options in the military. With this website, we intend to answer some of the more common questions and dispel a few rumors. The most common question that we hear is, "Will the military force me to do a residency that I didn't want?" The answer to this question is: No, not necessarily. Understand that there are residencies that are difficult to get selected for in both the civilian world and the military world. If you want to be a neurosurgeon, it is difficult to get that residency in the military. Likewise, it is also difficult to get that residency in the civilian world. So, unless a student gets mostly A's in medical school, they probably wouldn't bother applying to what they know is a very competitive residency. Residencies that are considered "competitive" in the military are comparable to the residencies that are considered "competitive" in the civilian world. Additionally, military medical students who don't get what the want right out of medical school can reapply the next year during their internship. Their applications often are scored in such a way that puts them at an advantage above the fourth year medical students applying that same year. This will be covered in more detail in the Selection Process section of this website. Bottom line: "Exceptional" medical students will eventually get the specialty that they want. "Average" medical students may not get that very competitive residency, but they are still left with several great options and multiple times to apply. This is not much different than in the civilian residency match.
Another concern we often hear has to do with compensation. Many believe, "Sure, the military will pay for your medical school, but they will underpay you as a doctor." This also is not necessarily true. If one chooses to do a residency in the military they will be making more money than their civilian counterparts; in some cases up to twice as much. Once they become an attending physician, they will still be making as much as some of the lower paying specialties. However, they won't have to pay malpractice insurance and won't have to pay off any debt. In the end military physicians get just as much compensation over the course of their careers as most civilian doctors. You can find details in the Pay & Benefits section of this website.
There is one final concern that we would like to address. Some fear that since military doctors earn a salary that the military will overwork them and force them to work longer hours than their civilian counterparts. Again, our experience along with the experience of everyone one else we have associated with is the exact opposite. The military hospitals are bound by the same laws that bind civilian institutions. For example the ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) mandates that interns/residents (housestaff) work no longer than 80 hours per week. Also the military is interested in retention. To put it plain and simple, it is cheaper for the military to keep their current medical practitioners happy so that they will want to stay in the service as opposed to spending more money to train someone else. Also, the experience of seasoned practitioners who choose to stay in the service increases readiness. The military keeps life as good as it can be because they would like you to choose to stay.
For links to official government websites and other helpful contacts go to the Helpful Links section.