Rick Pescatore, Medical Student, 08:56AM Sep 3, 2013
When my acceptance letter to medical school came in the mail, I traded ribbons and rank for scrubs and white coats. After years of waking each morning to the strictest of schedules and a familiar routine, I was eager to transition to the new experience of civilian life and the world of medicine. Offered the option to continue on in the Navy under the auspices of the military scholarship programs that so many students pursue, I instead opted to undertake the gauntlet armed only with pencils, pens, and the crushing load of a self-assumed student debt.
The military scholarship opportunities provide the chance for students to graduate from medical school with little or no monetary debt. The Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) commissions young college graduates into the military reserves, while the Health Services Collegiate Program (HSCP) places those same individuals in an active stance, with benefits and commitment differing from program to program. In return for the funds to pursue their education, students are obligated to a number of years of active duty service as a physician.
Aside from freedom from the troublesome debt load most medical students face, engagement in the military scholarship programs offers the young physician unique educational opportunities, special placements with Department of Defense assets around the globe, and the chance to belong to an organization with an important and inspiring purpose.
All this comes at a cost, of course. Service in the Navy, Army, or Air Force brings with it many sacrifices: time away from family, the forced endurement of an inflexible system, and the potential lost income of years in private practice. A few minutes on popular student message boards will quickly show that these sacrifices sometimes bring discontent.
I graduate this spring free to pursue the civilian career I've always dreamed of, saddled with a commitment only to the six-figure debt that continues to accrue. Many of my classmates, however, look forward to years of uniformed service. I lately find myself envying the incredible opportunities and special situations they will soon face.
The choice to pursue medical education under the sponsorship of the military scholarship programs is a personal choice and private decision. To those who have chosen to don the uniform, I know I speak for many of this blog's regular readership when I thank you for your choice, and wish you well on the incredible journey to come.
And, of course, Go Navy. Beat Army.