Category Archives: Doctor

What Makes A Good HPSP Application?

One of the most common question I get as a Medical Officer Recruiter centers around the competitiveness of the Health Professions Scholarship Program.  Leaving aside statistics, which can always be sliced and diced in ways that can either prove or disprove any point, I think there are some basic questions that a successful Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) application has to answer.

Assuming you get past the physical and have no other administrative issues, applicants essentially need to convince the board of four things:

1- You will graduate medical school on time.

2- You will pass your boards.

3- You will enjoy being a doctor.

4- You will be happy in the Navy work environment.

For the most part questions one and two are answered by your undergraduate experiences and  MCAT score, while questions three and four are answered through references, interviews, and your motivational statement.

Taken together, these questions basically boil down to, “What are the odds this person will be a successful doctor in the Navy?” This is an important question, especially when you consider that through HPSP the Navy is hiring you as a doctor before you even begin medical school.

Understand, there are no silver bullet experiences or easy answers and I am not a member of the selection board.  I am simply a recruiter whose job it is to put someones application together, in the best light possible, in order for the board to make an informed decision using the “whole person concept”.

Remember, there are only a finite number of scholarships (usually about 200 four-year slots and less than 30 three-year slots each cycle). There will always be more people who are qualified than there will be recipients.  It’s not about who “deserves” a scholarship, but about who can best make the case that they will be an asset in helping the US Navy meet its obligations to our country.

The Navy is betting hundreds of thousand of dollars on each recipient, so you want to paint yourself as a safe bet.  An application that can answer the questions above is a good start.

Future posts will address each of these specifically as well as what potential applicant can do to set themselves up for success. Click on the “Follow My Blog” link to be notified of future posts.

** As always the opinions on this blog are my own views and unless otherwise noted, do not reflect any official policy or directive of the US Navy or the the Navy Recruiting Command **


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Filed under Culture, Doctor, HPSP, Scholarship

Officer Development School Q&A With HPSP Student Ensign Nikki Bouchard

Ensign Nicole Bouchard is currently attending The University of Maryland School of Medicine under the Navy Health Professions Scholarship Program. She recently completed Officer Development School in Newport, Rhode Island and was kind enough to provide feedback on her experiences.

ODS_mainQuestions and answers are below.

1- What did you do to prepare for ODS? Was there anything that you over/under prepared for?
Aside from packing (which took way longer than it should have), I studied a lot of gouge before going – Sailor’s Creed, Rank Insignia, Code of Conduct, etc. Although we had time to study there during free time and at night, I felt much better already knowing all that information, especially the ranks! I didn’t get any knowledge questions wrong during my inspections and I owe that to the fact that I started memorizing early in a less stressful environment (i.e. on my couch).

Some other students said that I was over-prepared on this front, but those same people came to me to use my flashcards and study with me before inspections. I also, of course, got myself physically ready by running 3 miles in the morning 3 days a week and doing strength and conditioning on the off days. This really paid off, even though PT wasn’t at all rigorous. Some people struggled with our sustained run days.

2- What was your biggest challenge during the course?
The biggest challenge for me was not falling asleep in class, really. I spent most of my time standing in the back. I would recommend to future students that if they are big coffee drinkers that they ween themselves off of it before getting there. I ended up with caffeine withdrawal headaches my first 2 days (the longest 2 days) which made everything unnecessarily harder. The sleep schedule is hard to get used to at first, but this is another reason why I was so glad I studied ahead of time – I could go to bed earlier than most people who had to stay up studying.

Another challenge for me was, surprisingly, becoming accustomed to the “team” attitude. My whole life I have been used to being responsible for my own actions and my own actions alone. All of a sudden, I (and everyone else) was being held accountable for others’ mistakes. It was hard at first not to get frustrated by this, and I know I wasn’t the only one. The faster everyone learns to ask for help when they need it and offer help when they see others needing it, the better it will be…for everyone.

My company was a little slow on this learning curve. With most of us being medical students, we were all kind of used to competing against our peers. I spent a lot of nights earlier on becoming frustrated with people, and it wasn’t until I was the one who screwed up when it finally clicked. Once we really started working together, everything ran so much more smoothly.

3- What was/were your best experiences?
I met some great people that I know I will end up working with throughout my Navy career, and being able to make those connections, with people that I had so much in common with on so many levels, was amazing. You get really close with your peers in just 5 weeks, especially because there is no privacy, alone time, etc. I really did make some great friends. I’m still texting my roommate every day.

Ensign Nikki Bouchard (Left) stands with fellow studets at a Fourth of July Parade.

Ensign Nikki Bouchard (Far Left) stands with fellow ODS students at a Fourth of July Parade.

That, and saving the USS Buttercup from sinking. The wet trainer was definitely the most fun evolution we had the entire 5 weeks, and I think most everyone would agree with me on that.

4- Now that you are through with ODS do you feel any different?
I feel completely different, actually! I feel like I accomplished something really big. I feel proud to be in the Navy and don’t feel as weird telling people about it, mostly because I really understands what that means now.

5- Are you still happy with your decision to join the Navy?
I am, in fact, even more happy with my decision now than I ever was before! Even though there was a lot of nonsense we had to deal with while at training, I loved feeling like a real part of the military for the first time. I really think I’m going to have an amazing career and I don’t know how any civilian doctor’s experience will ever come close to mine.

Ensign Bouchard and her mother following Officer Development School graduation.

Ensign Bouchard and her mother following Officer Development School graduation.

6- After this experience, is there anything about the Navy that you are particularly looking forward to?
Adventure! There’s so many opportunities that the Navy offers, and I know I won’t come close to getting to experience them all. A new place every 2-3 years, meeting people from all over, working with the most courageous and honorable people this country has to offer – that’s what I’m looking forward to most.

Thanks to Ensign Bouchard for this feedback!  To see a video about the USS Buttercup wet trainer click here. The video is nine minutes long with the real action kicking off at the five minute mark.

If you are in the Baltimore area and would like to learn more about Navy Health Professions Scholarship you can contact me at  If you live outside of Balimtimore you can enter your zip code into the Recruiter Locator to find an Officer Recruiter near you.

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Filed under Doctor, Officer Development School, Scholarship

Baltimore Reserve Physician Completes Training Exercise; Prepares For First Deployment

It’s been a little over a year since Baltimore Psychiatrist, Dr. Bernard Fischer, was officially sworn in as a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserve, Medical Corps.  In that time he’s gotten his uniform and ID card, attended drill weekends, and even completed his two week Officer Development Course in Newport, RI.  Recently he was able to add another important milestone to his list of accomplishments; his first field exercise.

Although LCDR Fischer drills out of the Navy Reserve Center in Baltimore, his official unit is Expeditionary Medical Facility One (EMF 1) which is headquartered on Great Lakes, IL.  The purpose of the EMF system is to be able to set up field hospitals in remote areas in the event of conflict or humanitarian crisis operations.

EMF 1 was one of many medical and Construction Battalion (Sea Bees)  units that arrived to Cheatham Annex, in Williamsburg, VA last month to test a new Chemically Hardened Expeditionary Medical Facility. The facility is designed to allow forces to provide medical care in an environment containing chemical or biological agents.

LCDR Bernard Fischer (center) stands with other members of the EMF 1 Mental Health Team during their 72 Hour "Lock In" as part of a recent training exercise."

LCDR Bernard Fischer (center) stands with other members of the EMF 1 Mental Health Team during their 72 Hour “Lock In” as part of a recent training exercise.”

As LCDR Fischer described it, ” We put up a “small” EMF (we had about 170 staff inside) and then tested the collective protection liner. The test was a 72 hr lock-down where we treated simulated casualties coming in through an airlock while SeaBees and contractors tested our air exchange and pressure.”

The unit was split up into two teams, one that was assigned for the construction an another assigned for the recovery of the facility. “Things went really well. Both the set-up and take down took significantly less time than was expected and the tests were all passed.”, he added.

While field exercises are always great experiences, LCDR Fischer is also looking forward to his next adventure, a voluntary deployment to the NATO Hospital in Khandahar, Afghanistan.  He expects to leave in early 2014, but has already begun to prepare as much as possible.

“I spoke to the reserve specialty leader for psychiatry- he just got back from Role 3 last year- and he answered a lot of my questions.  I’ll be doing brief therapy, med management, and triaging for evacuation to Germany. According to what I’ve heard, about 2/3 of the cases will come from the field  and about 1/3 will be care for the care-giver (making sure all the trauma and surgical teams are okay considering what they see and have to deal with.)  It will be hard to be away from the family, but I think it will be really rewarding for us all.” he said.


Read more about the EMF Exercise here.

Access an absolutely terrific series about Navy Medicine at NATO Role 3 Hospital in Khandahar, Afghanistan that was done by the Virginia Pilot by clicking on this link.  Be advised the videos and photos are graphic.

Another recent article about the Hospital in Khandahar can be accessed here.

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Filed under Deployment, Doctor, Reserves

The Recruitment of Dr. Chi

When trauma Surgeon Dr. Albert Chi was commissioned as a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserves at a ceremony inside the Johns Hopkins Medical Center on April 19, 2013, it was the culmination of a long journey, one that began well before he met me.

Dr. Chi had always had a desire to serve his country, but it wasn’t until 2008, while he working in a critical care/trauma surgery fellowship at the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, MD, that he really began to think about the Navy.  During this time period, Dr. Chi worked alongside, and became friends with, a Navy Reserve Physician by the name of Captain Rom Stevens.  That relationship soon led to Captain Stevens eventually introducing him to another to a local reserve officer in the Navy Dental Corps, Admiral Lew Libby.

Admiral Lew Libby administers the Commissioning Oath to LCDR Albert Chi at Johns Hopkins.

Admiral Lew Libby administers the Commissioning Oath to LCDR Albert Chi at Johns Hopkins. (Phot0 by MC1 Carlson, Public Affairs Officer, NRD Philladelphia)

Over the next few years, these two men helped DR. Chi to slowly learn about life in the Navy Reserves and how it could be balanced with a civilian career.  “Their influence and the way they lead by example was the final factor in my decision to join”, said LCDR Chi.  He knew he wanted to do it, he just needed to wait until the right time in his professional life to do so.

After completing his fellowship, Dr. Chi went across town to work as an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute.  While there he got involved with groundbreaking work with prosthetic limbs that are controlled by the patient’s brains.  The revolutionary devices can move, grip, and even feel sensations. (The work was featured on an episode of the CBS News Program 60 Minutes last December). This work put him in close contact with other military physicians and helped sustain the desire that had been planted years earlier.

By the Spring of 2012, I had been working in Baltimore as a medical officer recruiter long enough to have established some pretty good contacts, so when the call came to find a VIP rider for the Blue Angels later that summer, I was out and about looking for a lucky passenger.  The phrase “I’m looking for someone who wants to ride in a F-18 Fighter jet” quickly opened a lot of doors and it eventually led me to a meeting with the VP of Nursing Operations at the Cowley Shock Trauma Center.  Karen Doyle would eventually become the VIP rider and through our relationship I learned about and was eventually invited to attend a professional development conference later that fall.

Karen Doyle, VP of Nursing Operations at Maryland Shock Trauma Center is strapped into a Blue Angel F-18.  Her VIP ride indirectly led to the meeting of LCDR Albert Chi.

Karen Doyle, VP of Nursing Operations at Maryland Shock Trauma Center is strapped into a Blue Angel F-18. Her VIP ride indirectly led to the meeting of LCDR Albert Chi. (Photo by MC1 Carlson, Public Affairs Officer, NRD Philadelphia)

So there I was, in the lobby of the “Special Topics in Trauma Conference” standing by my small stand with the fancy Navy tablecloth, when in walks Dr. Albert Chi, who was just in the area to visit some past colleagues. The initial conversation lasted about five minutes. He simply asked if I was a medical officer recruiter for reserves, to which I replied that I was indeed.  He then told me that he was a trauma surgeon and he was ready to join. “I think this is the right time”, he said. We traded contact numbers and he was off.

He still had to go back and brief his idea to his employer as well as his wife, but it wasn’t long before we started putting together his application.  “The support I’ve received from my department chair and my department head at Hopkins has been overwhelming.” Adding that they understand that it is a sacrifice, but it’s a sacrifice they all “believe in, and are willing to support”.

LCDR Chi knows that being a trauma surgeon in the Navy Reserves is more than just wearing the uniform and that it is a commitment to an already busy life. His motivation to serve is what is driving him and he is hoping to deploy as soon as he gets the chance. “Drill weekends and potential deployments represent time away from my wife and partners at work but it’s a sacrifice they are all willing to make”, he said.

When asked about what he hopes to gain as a Physician in the Navy Reserves, LCDR Chi stated simply, “I hope to serve my country in a capacity to help those service men and women wounded during timed of conflict.”

The recruitment of LCDR Chi began nearly five years before he was commissioned. It directly involved a Navy Reserve doctor and a Navy Reserve dentist and it indirectly involved a Nurse taking her first ride in an F-18 fighter jet during Baltimore Navy Week.

So in the end, my job, as the Navy Recruiter, was a lot like the full back who carries the ball across the goal line for the final yard of long touchdown drive.  The stat book may credit me with the gain, but it was truly a team effort, an effort that resulted in big win for Navy Medicine.


Filed under Doctor, Reserves

The Nuts and Bolts of the Health Professions Scholarship Program

The Navy Health Professions Scholarship Program is the primary means for the Navy to “hire” our physicians.  In fact, the approximately 200 scholarships offered each fiscal year dwarf the numbers of positions available for those who wish to affiliate with the Navy while in residency (9) or are already fully licensed and board certified (10).  This post provides details about the features and benefits of the program.

FULL TUITION PAID- This is the biggie, the attention getter, the heart and soul of the program.  Tuition is paid directly to the school of your choice and is good for any accredited school in the country.  It doesn’t matter if the school is allopathic or osteopathic, in state or out of state, if you are accepted; tuition is covered.  In addition to tuition being covered, so are all required textbooks.  Other students “on a budget” may have to look at textbooks as way to cut costs.  They will ask around to find out if a book is legitimately REQUIRED, or if the word required is more of a recommendation.  HPSP recipients don’t have this problem.  Required means you’ll get the money for the books. You will have everything you need to succeed!

SIGN ON BONUS OF $20,000-  BAM- Twenty grand (less taxes) deposited right into your bank account!  Use this for anything you want! Many put it towards reliable transportation and/or moving expenses but it’s yours to be used any way you like.  This payment is processed by Navy Finance Office once school starts, so it usually deposits into your account in mid-September and provides a great financial boost as you begin your matriculation.

MONTHLY STIPEND-  The money keeps rolling in.  In 2013 the stipend is set at $2,122 and provides money for you to live on.  Many typical medical school students take out loans each semester to cover their tuition as well as living expenses.  This can mean a pretty bare cupboard as the money starts to run out.  HPSP students can count on a steady deposit of funds each month.

Taken together the three points above (Tuition/Bonus/Stipend) combine to ensure the HPSP medical school student  not only survives medical school, but provides the means to do so worry free. HPSP enables you to graduate free of any medical school debt.

OK, what’s the catch? This is a common question when benefits seem almost “too good to be true”.  Well, the catch is, you must serve in the Navy as an Active Duty Physician once you graduate.  So the “catch”  is you already have a job after graduation. The benefits listed above are essentially our way of “hiring” you four years ahead of time. What’s even better is that you’ll make a lot more money as a Navy Resident than you will as a civilian resident.

How long must I serve? Service payback time following graduation is a minimum of a four year requirement, though there are some caveats.  Payback time does not include time that you spend in a training program, so RESIDENCY TIME DOES NOT COUNT for this. Since you need to do at least one year of residency in order to take your final USMLE test and become board certified, the actual minimum time in the Navy is five years. The best way to look at it is this way; the Navy hired you to work as a doctor and therefore the payback time only counts if you are doing a job as opposed to training for a job. When taken from that perspective it makes a lot of sense.

Will I have to do any Navy stuff while in medical school?- It’s important to remember that the Navy is investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in YOU, so your success in school is the ultimate goal of the program.  HPSP is designed to produce awesome doctors.  This is why the Navy impact on your life during medical school is very minimal.  HPSP students report that many times they only remember they are in the Navy when they look at their bank account.

While there are a couple of Navy requirement, they are designed to either have no impact on your studies or to provide a specific benefit to your time in medical school.  Again, your success in medical school is the intent of the program.

You will be required to attend 5 Weeks of Officer Development School (ODS) during the summer between your first and second year.  You do so at this time because it’s really the only summer you have off.  The school is in Newport, R.I.  At ODS you will learn the basics of how to be a Navy Officer.  You will learn how to wear your uniform, US Navy customs, courtesies and traditions, as well as other essential leadership and management skills.  You will also be required to pass a Navy Physical Fitness test.

During your time in medical school you will technically be commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy Reserves. As such, there will be a few times that you will be paid for active duty service time.  Sometimes this is done as “school orders” in which you remain at school and continue your studies, but other times it can be a more tangible benefit.  For example, in conjunction with your school many students may choose to do an elective rotation (usually done during third and fourth year of school). All students may have this opportunity but HPSP students can do this at a Navy Hospital and get paid to do so.  This is also a great way to make name for yourself at an institution where you may want to do a residency.  Interested in doing a surgical residency in San Diego? Do a surgery rotation out there as part of medical school.  Think of it as an extended interview……with pay (much more than the stipend amount, by the way).

Will the Navy tell me which residency I have to do?  No…not at all. The Navy offers over twenty programs.  Most of the residencies are offered at one of our “Big Three” Hospitals, either the joint Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, or one of our Naval Hospitals in Portsmouth, VA or San Diego, CA, though the Family Practice Programs are at some smaller facilities.

The application process is similar to the civilian match system with one difference.  The smaller size of the programs and fewer locations also means that it is administered by actual people, as opposed to a computer system.

All HPSP graduates will enter a residency program and do at least one year in order to be eligible for the final step in their USMLE board certification. Some will have a categorical match (meaning you go straight through) and some will do a two year break as a General Medical Officer before returning to their program. GMO jobs include working in operational billets as the lead medical officer aboard ships, with helicopter or jet squadrons, supporting submariners, or supporting the Marine Corps.  GMO opportunities are unique to the Navy and something that you should seek to learn about during your interview process.  Operational tours are usually the basis of a great many “sea stories” and the experiences as GMO are unique.

I’ve found in my experience that this aspect of Navy medicine may start out as a drawback to the program at first, but upon learning about it from actual physicians, it often becomes a driving factor in the decision to apply for the Navy.

Should you decide that you wanted to make the Navy HPSP a transactional relationship (as mentioned earlier), you could work for four years as a General Medical Officer and then get out to pursue civilian opportunities.  I know a few physicians that have done this for various reasons.  In each case they were happy in their ability to move forward with their careers debt free while their civilian peers were still paying off mountains of debt.

Most physicians, however, choose to complete their residency training through the Navy.  Because training time does not count as payback time, the career paths they choose drive the total number of years they are required to serve.  Residency programs do incur a service obligation (one year payback for each year in training) but the payback for the residency time is paid back AT THE SAME TIME as any HPSP obligation.  So the ability to begin paying back depends on the length of the residency. (Pediatrics is 3 year program while surgery is a 5 year program, for example)

This sounds like a lot to think about. Yes, it can be confusing at first. That’s why the best thing to do is to learn about the Navy early.  It’s also good to remember is that the length of service is ultimately driven by the career decisions you make.  One the best things about the HPSP application process is meeting with actual Navy Physicians and hearing their stories about training pipelines, GMO tours, and their experiences during their residency training.  Cultural fit is important and no one wants to feel “trapped” in any organization.  It’s been my experience that the number of physicians unhappy with the way things turned out for them is very rare and I’ve written about that here.

Understanding and getting comfortable with this process is critical to ensuring you ultimately enjoy your Naval career. To learn more about Navy Graduate Medical Education you can click here. I also encourage potential applicants to talk to current HPSP students as well as current and past Navy physicians.

The scholarship and money aspects of the Health Professions Scholarship are amazing and it is often the reason people first look into the Navy. It’s no secret that the Navy offers the big bucks as an attention getter and there is nothing wrong with that.  Once you learn the scholarship exists, though, the next thing to do is learn about Navy medicine.

The Navy is not for everybody, but it is for a lot of people, and you may be one of them.  Talk to a recruiter. Talk to an actual Navy doctor (past or present). Ask the questions. Do the research.  In the end, if you think the opportunity to travel the world is cool, then do it. If the prospect of working with an outstanding family of medical professionals as you serve our nation is up your alley, then do it. If the opportunity to make a difference on a global scale is important to you, then do it.  Apply for the Navy Scholarship for those reasons.  The money is just the icing on the cake.

For more information about Navy Medicine you can click here.  You can also use this link to locate a medical recruiter nearest you.

NOTE: Although I retired from the Navy in June of 2014 I will continue to respond to the comments section of this post.  As time goes on, my answers will likely become more and more general in nature, however.


Filed under Culture, Doctor, Residency, Scholarship

How to apply for the Navy HPSP Scholarship

The Navy Health Professions Scholarship Program is an absolutely terrific way to not only pay for medical school but to also ensure immediate employment following graduation.   The HPSP program, in a nutshell, provides 100% tuition for medical school, a sign on bonus of $20,000 and regular stipend currently running at a little bit over $2,100 per month.  In return  you will serve on active duty for a minimum of four years as a licensed physician. Future posts will explore the details (to include residencies and payback) of the scholarship.  For now, this article will simply focus on the process of application.

                Am I competitive? There are some minimum standards which can preclude you from even applying, but what I’d like to focus on here is what makes someone competitive for the scholarship.  The Navy uses a “whole person concept” so there are no specific categories that you must be superior in, but the following are some very good general guidelines;

  • Cumulative GPA for all courses taken after high school of 3.5 or better.
  •   MCAT Score of 25 is the bottom of the competitive range.  Scoring a 30 or better is a great way to stand out.  The Navy uses the MCAT scores as tool to predict how likely you will be to pass your board exams, so any score lower than an 8 may be concerning, and anything lower than a 6 is red flag.  Remember, it’s not just about getting into medical school, or even just about graduating. The Navy is hiring a future physician and those that dole out the money want to make sure you’re a safe bet to pass your boards on the first try.
  •  Leadership and extracurricular activities help set you apart.

When should I start? While it’s never too early to begin learning about Navy Medicine, I believe that the best time to really begin working with a recruiter is about the time you get your MCAT results back.  The Navy typically offers about 200 scholarships nationally each year (October through September).  If someone is planning on going directly into medical school following their undergraduate they would typically get their MCAT scores back the spring of their junior year.  By speaking with a recruiter at the end of the junior year, that would allow an applicant to work throughout the summer to assemble the various pieces of the application in order to have it completed by the fall for immediate consideration.  For those taking some time off between undergraduate and medical school, the MCAT results date is still a good timeline.

You can start this process and even submit the application before you are accepted to a medical school (you just can’t get a final selection notification until you know where you’re going to matriculate).  That being said, I have started to work with applicants as late as April and still gotten everything together in order for them to get selected in time for school to start that fall.  Just understand the later you wait the greater the risk you run of having the boards close down.

What do I need?  There are some basic documents that you will need to gather/provide your recruiter.  The program is only open to US Citizens, so you will need to provide original copies of your birth certificate and social security card.  (Naturalized citizens substitute that paperwork for the birth certificate).  You’ll also need to be within the Navy fitness standards in order to apply. In addition we require:

  • Official Transcripts from all colleges you have attended since high school
  • A signed and dated copy of a current resume
    • You will need a minimum of three work/instructor references (form provided by your recruiter)
  • You to complete a security clearance questionnaire  (tell your recruiter upfront if you’ve had any legal issues)
  • A print out of your MCAT scores
  • A print out of your medical school application packet (AMCAS or AACOMAS)
  • You must pass a physical examination. Tips for the physical below are not all inclusive, but are helpful.
    • If you ever had any surgeries or medical issues, you’ll likely need documentation about that, so it’s good to begin gathering that early.
    • Tell your recruiter if you’ve ever had issues with asthma, depression, ADD, or are curerntly taking any medication.  These may not neccessarily be disqualifiers, but may require extra paperwork or lab tests.
  • You will be required to provide a “motivational statement” about why you want to be a physician in the US Navy (specific form for this will be provided).
  • You will need to be interviewed by two Navy Physicians (usually set up through the recruiter).
  • Other miscellaneous forms and statements of understanding will require your signature.

As mentioned earlier, we can submit an application before you receive a letter of acceptance to medical school, but once you receive the good news it will be included in the application along with a statement from the school you wish to attend stating that you have been accepted and are registered for classes (Known as an Academic Year Statement).

Navy Medicine Comfort Poster

When would I know? Scholarship boards are general held each month (though not always).  Your local recruiter will be able to tell you the schedule for the upcoming boards.  Once your kit is completely assembled it will be sent through some quality assurance checks to make sure everything was filled out properly and then forwarded to the board for consideration.  Results are typically released two to four weeks following the convening date. 

Kits that do not have the letter of acceptance or Academic Year Statement may be classified as only “Professionally Recommended”.  This is certainly good news, but is not a final decision.  It’s the Navy saying that we believe you will make a good doctor.  The “Final Selection” letter cannot be issued until everything (including the Academic Year Statement) is completed.  Getting this “Final Selection” letter is the Navy officially offering you the scholarship.  It is at this time that you must formally commit yourself to the Navy. Once you do that, the scholarship is yours and that’s one less the Navy has to offer for that fiscal year. 

Understanding this process is important because it is possible to be “professionally recommended” but never get a “final selection” letter either because of an incomplete kit, or because the scholarships are already given out.  This doesn’t happen often, but it is a possibility.  This is the reason it’s always better to begin the process sooner, rather than later.

Who do I need to talk with? If you are in the Baltimore area you can contact me directly at  If not you can click here and input you zip code to find a recruiter in your area.  Often times the website will provide you with a telephone number for the regional officer recruiting station.  That station can provide you with the specific contact information for a medical officer recruiter in your local area.


Filed under Doctor, Scholarship

Organizational Culture: Right Person for the Right Job

In my 18 years in the Navy I’ve had the opportunity to work with a great number of medical officers.  Many absolutely LOVED the Navy and have stayed, or are planning to stay, for a full 20 year career. Others have enjoyed the Navy for what it can also be; an opportunity to practice medicine on a global scale for 5 to 10 years, serving Sailors and Marines, as well as their families. After a while these doctors, nurses, and dentists eventually moved on to civilian practice, loaded up with great training and some seriously cool “sea stories”.  I can only think of two people, however, that absolutely dreaded coming to work.  These individuals were not only miserable, but they made life tough for the entire work section.

Why were they hopelessly miserable?  As it turns out, their reasons were similar.  In both cases the reality of their situations at the time were not in alignment with what they expected a Navy career to be like.  To be honest, I don’t really know what lifestyle they expected, but it doesn’t matter.  The only thing that mattered was that they felt trapped, and by extension, were worried that they might have been falling behind in life.

SAN DIEGO (March 4, 2011) Lt. Lauren Mattingly, an intern in the Naval Medical Center San Diego Graduate Medical Education program, examines a newborn baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The graduate program trains doctors in the development of clinical and professional skills. The hospital has 24 accredited programs such as obstetrics gynecology, internal medicine and orthopedics. More than 70 interns are enrolled in the 2011 Graduate Medical Education program. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joseph A. Boomhower/Released)

Two.  That’s it. In my career only two were so miserable that they were actually a detriment to the mission.  It’s not many, but both were memorable situations.

Understanding the environment you are entering is critical to ensuring long term happiness in any endeavor.  These two unhappy souls painted themselves into a corner because they were too focused on immediate benefits and did not learn enough about the organization they were committing to.

The best organizations pay their employees just enough to keep them happy financially, but they really distinguish themselves in other areas such as organizational culture.  Of course, not all organizational cultures are the same, just as no two individuals are the same.  The real trick for an individual is to find a culture that fits their personality. In a similar way, organizations (including the Navy) actively seek out people who will mesh with the culture they already have.  When personality and organizational culture are aligned, success is exponential.

Money can’t buy happiness, but, of course, there is also nothing wrong with making a nice living doing something that makes you happy.  Compensation is very important and should certainly be factored into career decisions and there is a significant amount of money involved in affiliating with the Navy. Medical school scholarships are worth well over $200,000.  Physicians in certain residencies can earn close to $70,000 a year (in addition to residency pay) to affiliate after training, and licensed physicians with some skill sets can receive over $100,000 just for signing on.  But even if your primary mitivation for looking into a Navy career is a monetary one, you still owe it to yourself to investigate what your future will be like in the Navy.

The Navy wants individuals who will be successful in our organization. That’s why the affiliation process requires two interviews from current Navy officers.  Applicants tend to come away from these conversations with a much clearer picture of what their future will look like in the Navy.  These Navy medical professionals go out of there way to approach subjects such as deployments, residency programs and other training opportunities.  

They speak candidly about their ability to pursue personal goals, such as  family life, as well as the highs and lows of a Navy career. In addition, they speak to the responsibilities inherent with being in the military, as well as the specific constraints of the system.  The goal is an honest representation of what a future Naval Medical Officer can expect.  The more people learn, the more excited they get about a future as a Naval Officer.  The more they know ahead of time, as an applicant,  the easier it will be to navigate through any bad days they may experience once affiliated.

Oddly enough, the two miserable doctors I spoke about may actually have enjoyed the Navy, had they known what was coming.  It wasn’t the Navy as a whole that made them grumpy, it was feeling like they had been victimized.  All jobs will have some good days and some bad days.   I believe that had they had a better recruitment experience they either would have been more prepared to handle any bad days that came along and thus experienced a more successful (or at least had a more tolerable) Navy career. That, or they would not have joined at all.  Either of these would have been a more desirable situation for all parties involved.

The Navy isn’t for everyone and not everyone is meant for the Navy. I do believe, however, that there are many individuals who can find happiness and success in the Navy despite not even knowing it yet.   If you enjoy the opportunity to travel the world and working in an incredible team oriented environment the Navy may well be the place for you.  Check out the opportunities in Navy Medicine at the official Navy Medical Officer Recruiting website or you can reach out to me for more information.

Bob Wheeler

Chief Hospital Corpsman


Filed under Culture, Dentist, Doctor, Nurse, Residency, Scholarship