The military match results are in. No one cares.

December 17, 2007 at 12:54 am (Military medicine)

Every year medical students in the HPSP program as well as students from the Uniformed Services University (USUHS) must participate in the military’s residency match program. The military’s match program is loosely based upon its civilian counterpart. For example, program directors take into consideration grades, board scores, research publications, interviews, etc… However, just like everything else in the military, the armed forces has found away to formalize the process to such a high degree of micromanagement that the entire system is no longer meaningful. For medical students entering in the military match program, they have to wade through a confusing point system that churns out an score for all applicants based on factors such as class rank, prior military service, and “ability to become an officer.” Further, residency program directors have no control over who actually gets selected to attend their particular institute. Instead, a group of the three services’ top leaders convene one week during the fall and decide the fate of all military medical students. The whole process is rather nerve-racking for those of us in the HPSP program. This past week, the military once again held its annual match and crushed the dreams of many people seeking to enter their desired specialties.

The Air Force released its results on a public website in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. Out of privacy concerns for others, I will not reproduce that website here. However, I’m sure that he do some searching around you can find it yourself. Looking over that chart I noticed that over 25% of medical students are matching into flight surgery. For those of you who don’t know, flight surgery involves a one-year internship, six weeks of flying lessons and aerospace medicine, and then it’s off to the clinic to work as an attending. Certainly, anyone reading this blog will instantly realize that flight surgeons are missing out on a lot of valuable training in residency. By granting only one year of training, the military is creating an entire generation of physicians who aren’t fully prepared to become doctors.

For the Air Force, flight surgery is a wastebasket to force all non-matching students into a particular field of medicine. The title “flight surgery” is a misnomer. It has little to do with flying, and nothing to do with surgery. While I will grant that some people are willing to enter this field, surely 1/4 of applicants do not want to have an internship serve as their terminal training.

For the rare student who did match to his chosen field, he can breathe a sigh of relief as his senior year in school is over. But for those students who did not match into their chosen field or location, the next 5+ years are going to be very difficult. Each year that passes I grow more and more nervous about not getting the field that I want, and getting forced into flight surgery. While the prospect of learning how to fly is appealing, more than anything I just want to be a practicing physician. I’ve mentioned earlier on this website about the problems of taking the HPSP scholarship. However, money is not the only issue. Upon learning that I have no control over my future training, I feel as if the military has led us all into one great big lie.

I’m bound to get hate mail from the “patriots.” I signed up with every intention to serve. However I didn’t think that the military would deceive me over the amount of education that I would receive. Further, my role in the military is to be the best doctor I can be. And without that extra training, I’m doing a real disservice to the nation’s soldiers.



  1. Anon said,

    I’ve had several former military doctors assist and deliver some of my children. They were some of the finest doctors anywhere. Their training was pre-1980’s so probably didn’t have the option of “flight surgery” as you have seen it and I’m sure they’d have not done it.

    I will never say anything bad about them, but I think that your reasoning is worthy of consideration. Why would a doctor need to know how to fly? Do they fly Otters in and land on sand bars and operate? It doesn’t quite make sense.

  2. halfmd said,

    I will never say anything bad about the competency of military medical doctors. My complaint is with the military itself, and its misguided notion that physicians are properly trained with only one year of residency. Flight surgery gets billed by the Air Force as being the greatest thing since sliced bread. Recruiters routinely bill flight surgery as, “You’ll be in the back of a cockpit with one hand flying a plane in the other hand performing surgery—with rock ‘n roll playing in the background!”

  3. Anon said,

    Recruiters routinely bill flight surgery as, “You’ll be in the back of a cockpit with one hand flying a plane in the other hand performing surgery—with rock ‘n roll playing in the background!”


    At some point, recruiters will be joked about like used car salesmen. (My ex husband was both.)

  4. REO SpeedDealer said,

    Unfortunately you fell for the lie of military medicine like so many others. Are they still spewing that garbage that 98% of applicants get their top choices for residency? The military medicine system has been rotten for decades. Why people make such an enormous decision with only the recruiter’s word just kills me. In the unlikely event that the recruiter even knows what a flight surgeon is, he will still tell you how cool it is because he has been taught to sell it that way. I’m sorry for you. Just do your time and get out like everybody else does.

  5. halfmd said,

    Yes, that 98% number still gets thrown around. My own guess is that around 80% of applicants end up in the specialty they want. I would imagine that far fewer end up at the location they desire. Would I really would like to see — but would never occur — is for the Air Force to let an outside agency interview its medical students to see what the real statistics are like. It will never happen because the military doesn’t want premeds to know what a raw deal HPSP really is.

  6. Speed9BS said,

    I wonder where your information comes from… Whoever told you that flight medicine has little to do with flying doesn’t really have a clue what he is talking about. I spent 4 years as an active duty flight surgeon assigned to a B-1 squadron and am currently a flight surgeon assigned to an F-16 squadron in the Reserves while completing residency. When the Air Force advertises flight medicine as the “best thing since sliced bread”, they are correct. There is no other field in medicine that affords you the opportunity to do the things you can do in flight medicine. I have been around the world, flown in combat defending the country that gives it’s citizens the right to bad-mouth the very organization and troops that provide for that freedom, flown multimillion-dollar aircraft, dropped live weapons, and had the privilege to provide medical care for those troops and their families both at home and while deployed. Flight medicine is a field that is poorly understood except by those who have practiced it. Until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes, don’t speak as if you know what you are talking about. “Flight surgery” is not surgery – you are correct in that regard. It is basically primary care for anyone on special operational duty status and their families. In addition to that, the flight surgeon is the expert on “the man” and his relation to the flying environment. Why does a physician need to know how to fly? It is so he can understand how a pilot’s mind works in order to be the most effective physician he can be for that pilot. USAF flight surgeons are NOT trained to fly! I have no idea where this assumption comes from. The Navy teaches their flight surgeons to fly, but not the Air Force. We are given training on the basics of flying as then expected to learn the rest as you go. Each flight surgeon should learn the intricacies of their particular airframe, so they can be more effective in their job. I have not been forced to practice medicine with an intership as me terminal training, and to suggest that to be the case for any other flight surgeon is ludicrous. All flight surgeons can apply for the match at any point in their career after their initial 2 years of service. In fact, no one is permitted to continue to be a GMO flight surgeon after 4 years, unless the circumstances are dire and manning is extremely low. The HPSP is NOT a raw deal. I am the only member of my entire residency program that is DEBT FREE. As a result of my experience as a flight surgeon, I also have more experience than every other resident in my program, even though I am still a junior resident. Do yourself and everyone else a favor and drop your assumptions about flight medicine until you get the facts straight. Don’t speak until you know what you are talking about. It will make you a much better physician in the end.

  7. halfmd said,

    Claiming that a flight surgeon is doing the same job of a pilot is like stating that a sports medicine doc is running screen passes on a Sunday afternoon. Your post comes across as if it were written by a recruiter than a physician. First, doctors are not formally trained to fly in the Air Force as other pilots are. Physicians merely have a six-week course from the School of Aerospace Medicine that teaches everything from aerospace physiology, evading the enemy, and the basics of flying. And although flight surgeons will get their wings after completing the School of Aerospace Medicine, they are not licensed pilots—and they certainly are not qualified to fly a plane.

    I have serious doubts about some of the claims that you’ve made. I doubt that you have “flown multimillion-dollar aircraft.” Certainly doctors are allowed in the cockpit, but I would question why the Air Force would have a physician flying a plane when there are so many pilots available. I also have serious misgivings about “dropping live weapons.” For a doctor to handle weapons would be a violation of the Geneva conventions. (Yes, I’m well aware that doctors can carry pistols for the sake of defending themselves, their patients, and the hospital. However, physicians cannot go looking for a fight.)

    While I don’t doubt that you obtained a lot of unique opportunities as a flight surgeon, most people go to medical school to become doctors. That the Air Force only allows for one year of graduate medical education is a true statement. Until you can point to me where flight surgeons are obtaining additional formal education, I will continue to maintain my position that flight surgeons are not fully trained to be even general practitioners. Some states will not even grant medical licenses to doctors who only have one year of residency.

    I am well aware that the commitment for flight surgery is only two years, and that practitioners can apply for residency after this two-year period. However, finishing a stint in flight medicine and then immediately going through military residency will only add to the years of commitment that a person has. I see no reason why someone should go this route unless he wants a full 20-year career in the military. Otherwise, the smart thing to do would be to put in the four years as a flight surgeon and then get out completely.

    You tout being in your residency program is the only person who is debt-free. You’re also substantially older than many of the people in your program. Many specialists—by saving their salary over the course of four years as an attending—should be able to pay off their medical school debts. As I’ve already stated on this blog, the HPSP scholarship only makes sense financially for primary care physicians.

    You state that you are the most experienced resident in your program. Of course you are! You spent four years as a practicing doctor. Any other resident coming from another field will also be highly experienced. I don’t need to go to flight medicine to achieve that status.

    Now I have two questions for you: (1) Did you choose to go into flight medicine? While there are some people who do look forward to joining this field, many medical students are forced to do a GMO/flight surgery stint because they did not match to their chosen field. (2) Are you still in the Air Force? If flight surgery was so great, why didn’t you apply for the aerospace medicine residency program? You could have continued on indefinitely in this specialty.

  8. REO SpeedDealer said,

    Hey Speed, I think I replaced you in Diego Garcia a few years back. Doogie here. A lot of halfmd’s info is correct, but you two are talking in different contexts. I have grown pretty anti-military medicine as I feel that military docs get a raw deal most of the time. However, being a flight doc does have its cool moments when you aren’t stuck grinding out sick call in the clinic. Flight docs fly in the sense that they are crewmembers on the jet and that once the pilots trust you, you can take the controls. You are not, and will never be a pilot unless you go through formal pilot training. That said, I have flown several airframes during my own time as a flight surgeon. Yes, these are multi-million dollar airplanes. halfmd, we do fly with live weapons and we do drop live weapons… usually on a bombing range. I did, however, ask to waive my Geneva Convention rights as a non-combatant in order to fly in combat. It was a choice I was willing to make in order to fly with my guys. Plus the jihadis don’t really give a damn about the Geneva Convention or anything else that smacks of civilized behavior. If we punched out over badguy land and were caught, we knew we would probably have been beheaded.

    As for being forced into flight med. I was. I applied to a competitive specialty after completing HPSP. I, and 25% of my year group ended up getting deferred for 1 year of training and forced into GMO billets. I met physical standards and thus became a flight doc. Immediately after my internship, I again applied for the same competitive residency. I was told, “No, you have to do a 2 year GMO tour before you can apply again.” OK, so I did 2 years, applied again, was passed over again, and at that time decided to get the hell out ASAP and never look back. By now you’re probably figuring that I’m a total dumbass and too retarded to match. Wrong. In the civilian match, I got my first choice. I am anti-military medicine because they continue to lie and count on the naive med students to believe everything the recruiter says. I think the military has to start honoring some of the promises it has been making and breaking for so many years. There is a complete vacuum of leadership in military medicine because good people recognize the BS and get out. I’m not trying to start a war, just give some perspective.

  9. halfmd said,

    I had forgotten that flight surgeons can take control of the plane once it’s in the air. However, claiming that you’re flying a plane that’s already in motion is like a 14-year-old saying that he can drive a car because his parents let him back the Volkswagen down the driveway.

    I wasn’t aware that physicians can wave the Geneva Convention…

  10. Speed9BS said,

    Hey Doogie – sorry you’ve had such a raw deal from the Air Force. I won’t deny that the Air Force Medical Service does have a tencency to eat it’s young – that was why I enjoyed being a member of the Operations side of the house. Good luck with your endeavors – I heard great things about you from other docs that worked with you (you apparently fit right in with the crewdogs) – give my regards to Wendi and Dan the next time you talk to them.

    Halfmd – in answer to your questions – no I did not choose Flight Med, but I took the opportunity that was given to me and ran with it – and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. And, yes, I am still in the Air Force. I am currently an active Reservist, drilling one weekend a month and 2 weeks a year while I complete my civilian residency program. As to why I didn’t stay active duty and complete the Residency in Aerospace Medicine – I have no interest in becoming an administrator or squadron commander – my preference is to actually practice medicine.

    With regard to the assertions made in your post, I return to my previous statement – unltil you’ve walked a mile in my shoes, don’t try to speak as if you know what you are talking about. I’m not going to justify cheapshots and attempts to discredit the life and career I have lived with a response. All I will add is good luck to you, and I hope your Air Force career is as enjoyable and fulfilling as mine was.

  11. music said,

    very interesting.
    i’m adding in RSS Reader

  12. Navymedstudent said,

    Navy program directors choose who they want in the new match. They quote a 90% match I believe, although that’s for GME-1. Then there’s the whole GMO thing (our flight surgery track starts after GME-1, so you don;t match right into it)…. Supposedly the the GMO’s are filled with primary care docs and not just fresh GME-1 meat anymore…. Also, maybe states now not letting docs practice with less than 2 years of residency will help this whole issue.

  13. BP said,

    This comment is a little late, as I only recently discovered your blog. I am enlisted in the USAF, and as I much as I wish I could tell you things are better here than you have heard, I can’t. I do not trust the average military doctor. I have watched so many of my fellow airmen pushed out of the air force because of a doctors misdiagnosis or mistreatment. (One of my close friends will never be able to run or bear heavy weights again because of a bungled diagnosis of his fractured ankle, the doctor decided an x-ray was unnecessary. It was three months later that the true nature of his injury was revealed) I have seen pregnant women unable to see their PCP/OBGYN because the wait to get an appointment is several days long and Tricare (the only medical insurance provided) will not approve anything outside of a routine visit unless there is an immediate threat of loss of life, limb, or sight. That means that pain she felt in her abdomen which could have been diagnosed and treated that day, had to wait until the following week, after her fetus died. It is also not uncommon to see a qualified doctor’s opinion ignored simply because he/she is outranked by a mid-level provider. I rarely meet a physician who smiled or had any sort of bedside manner. They all seem stretched too thin, simply pushing through to get done with the days patients. I do not mean to discourage you, but rather to give you more insight into the world you are entering. I hope it helps you to find the drive to become the doctor you wish to be. I will be leaving the Air Force in two years to enter medical school. I know my experiences will help me to be the doctor that many Airmen and their families wish they could have seen.

    Now, on the flip side, I have never been to the major medical centers. (At this time the only two I am aware that are still standing are Travis AFB and Lackland AFB). I have heard great things about the care provided there (and the general attractiveness of the staff and volunteers).

    Good luck in the future. I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog. Keep it up.


  14. Air Force HPSP Student said,

    I think your description of how the match works is wrong. After interviewing this fall with program directors, I was told that program directors have a very strong control of who comes into their program. The 3 man panel only assigns your application points, but in the end it is up to the program directors to decide where you go. I bet 5$ that you will match into EM and all this negativity about the match that fuels your life will have to be transferred to something else. Good Luck!

  15. halfmd said,

    I hope you’re right.

  16. HPSP match said,

    I don’t understand why you put so much time and effort into complaining. I read your post about how easy fourth year is and how much drinking you can get done. These types of comments don’t lead me to believe that you have done everything within your control to make yourself the most competitive person come match time. I hammered my recruiter over and over about residency match, it was my only worry about the HPSP. He didn’t paint a rosy picture about getting whatever I want or throw out unbelievable numbers. He said “be the best candidate”. I believe that I have residency match within my control by what I do leading up to the match. Why can’t you be one of the 75% (your number) that matches and is happy?

    Trying to steer people away from HPSP is irresponsible on your part. You are generalizing all your concerns and assuming everyone will have the same issues and concerns. There are HPSP students in med schools all over the country at the top of their class that will match to whathever they want and go on to a very satisfying four year payback time and maybe career. They probably didn’t spend a whole lot of time blogging and complaining about something that hasn’t happened yet. I agree with the post above; you may get exactly what you want and all your energy here would be moot. If you do match to what you want during the military match will you post an apology? Probably not. You’ll say “well there are people who didn’t match so it’s still valid”. I say they should have done better in school.

    Also, look at the civilian match numbers. There are far more primary care residencies available than the more competitive – same as the Air Force – that’s why they are more competitive. Saying the Air Force is going to force people into primary care is rediculous; it may be the only option for some. The Air Force is mostly a microcosm of the civilian medical world, it’s all relative. Also, if you think that a majority of civilian physicians are happy campers, think again. Every walk of life has it’s pros and cons, I’m sure civilians have their own laundry list of complaints.

    When it’s all said and done, the Air Force is better off with residency trained physicians. If you are among the best candidates you’ll get picked up. If you are not competitive, well, it’s a situation you created for yourself; hope the drinking games were fun!!

  17. ArmyDoc said,

    Just a note from the army perspective on things. While the jobs of our flight surgeons are a little different due to the dominance of the rotary wing platforms (most of which are obligatory 2-pilot aircraft, so no taking the sticks), the match and training is very similar. I trained at a multi-service med school, and went on to intern in Family Practice before deciding it wasn’t for me and spooled out to do a flight surgeon gig for the past 2 years. While intimidating at first, I believe my training was entirely appropriate, and in many ways superior to my residency-trained counterparts. This seems paradoxical, but think about it: during internship you learn to handle common problems, culminating in completion of the year and (presumably) licensure. Afterwards you enter residency and become increasingly focussed on specialty and more difficult areas of medicine. The rub of flight surgery is that you’re dealing with a young, healthy, pre-screened population. Your job is to advise the commander and keep them well, not deal with the types of medical management issues you’ll face with the civilian population. Bunches of sports medicine complaints, upper respiratory infections, abscesses, and the occasional accidental laceration. Yes, worse will come through your door, when it is then your job to get them to someone with the resources to take care of them. Most residency-trained flight surgeons hate it because their skills atrophy so much during deployments. Talk to some of the older guys: prior to the 90’s, almost all military physicans did a GMO tour between internship and residency. This is still the case in the Navy.
    At any rate, it is true the military can force you into a given program, but only for internship. For residency you have more flexibility. However, it’s also true that the RD’s have little say during the intern match (basically they get veto priviledges), but they do get a say in the residency match, and most specialties have combined programs now.
    Bottom line is that there is a lot of crummy stuff about military medicine, but the same can be said for the civilian side too. Speed makes a very good point in that things don’t always work out how you planned, and you have to make the most of whatever situation you’re in. Just keep in mind that many of us chose this path with our eyes open, because there are things that mean more to us than money or publications. Maybe the military will demand that you serve for a couple years doing something you didn’t want to do. Try selling your sob story to a WWII vet and see how far it gets you. Being part of the military means being a servant to your country, not spending your entire time whining because you didn’t manage to broker quite as good a deal as you thought you did. And btw, the senior EM docs are the most “been-there, done-that” group you’ll ever meet, and if you try this riff with them they’ll eat you alive and spit out the bones. Either way, good luck, and hope everything worked out well for you.

  18. lied21 said,

    I am a flight surgeon now and it SUCKS!!! I, like many other poor souls who took the HPSP scholarship, was forced to do 1 year of internship and then on to at least 2 years of flight surgery. The practice of flight medicine is hardly medicine. I can feel the medical education seeping out of my brain daily. Whenever I talk to a medical student or pre-med I strongly caution them about military medicine. It is nothing like what the recruiter says. It is HORRIBLE. There’s more paperwork than there is medicine, there’s no efficiency, and the support staff is not motivated to do well, because the whole organization as not incentive to do well or improve.

  19. war_monger said,

    Just a comment to the uninformed/ vocally ignorant (For the record I am HPSP AIr Force). As of Fall 2008 there were 22 pilot-physicians in the Air Force. You would know about this if you read the USAF Medical Service Newsletters. These are people that are fully-qualified pilots and physicians, so yes, physicians can fly in the Air Force. I am not sure as to how this corresponds to the Geneva Convention, but I know it happens ( adjudication of the law falls outside my scope of practice). I attended MSOAM at Brooks AFB and our CO for the ADT was a Flight Surgeon and pilot as well. Flies rotary and fixed wing platforms (F-16 when I talked to him last).

  20. lied21 said,

    Taking the HPSP scholarship has cost me both money and happiness. I took the AF HPSP scholarship, as many people do, to help pay the cost of medical school all the while having the opportunity to serve in the Air Force as an officer and a physician. I was led to believe that I could complete the residency specialty of my choosing, though I may be compelled to to an AF residency. Sounded good.

    In the fall of my third year of medical school, 2006, I received a letter from the Air Force Surgeon General stating that he had instituted a new policy in effect for this year only. The policy stated that if one applies for the Air Force residency, but does not match, that individual would have to complete a PGY 1 year only then serve TWO years as a GMO or flight surgeon. Only after these two years could the person TRY to go back to residency. Of course, they would still have to apply to the AF residency and match or be granted a civilian deferral.

    For the Air Force residency match in 2006 there were on 14 Emergency Medicine residency spots available, with no civilian deferrals being granted. There were at least 50 medical students hoping to get one of these 14 spots along with several other people who were already serving operational tours.

    I along with all other medical students applying to EM this year (except one) did not match and were subsequently forced into flight surgery spots.

    The cost to our careers and savings account is staggering. Assuming I match in the 2009 military match, my career will have “only” been delayed for 3 years. The opportunity cost for earning is about $600,000 (avg EM salary of $200,000 x 3 years).

    If you factor in the money that the AF paid on my behalf during medical school ($200,000) and the current salary of a flight surgeon, about $100,000 /yr then I’m still losing out $200,000 ($600K – 100K *2 yrs – 200K).

    Moreover, if the AF does not let me go back to residency in 2009, and I finish out the remainder of my obligation to the AF as a flight surgeon for a total of 4 years, I will have effectively lost out on 5 years earning potential as an attending.

    The HPSP scholarship is a raw deal. The recruiters don’t tel you that you can be forced into doing flight surgery for 2-4 years, they don’t tell you that after all your hard work of going to med school, you can be forced into flight medicine. Do not take the HPSP scholarship, the risks very clearly outweigh the benefits.

    Half M.D.: Good summary of events of what happened two years ago. The match next year will be even more competitive than this year’s with all of the flight surgeons returning to apply. The amount of lying that comes from the Air Force is out of control. The new chief of physician education has already shown himself as someone who is not a student advocate.

  21. residentinspecialty said,

    I’m really happy with the airforce…matched into competitive specialty and now in great city doing my residency on the airforce dime…good luck…some people get screwed some do just fine.

  22. ArmySurg said,

    I would like to respond to all of these complaints about the military match… The only ppl I ever hear complaining about the military match are the ones who didn’t get their first choices. Did you ever think you didin’t get your first choice is because you weren’t very qualified? I worked very hard in medical school and I got my first choice in both specialty and location. And from I’ve been told, all the program directors all meet in Washington, DC to decide who goes where. And even if they don’t, everyone I know who had high scores and was highly qualified, went where they wanted…it’s just that simple.
    So maybe instead of blaming the military match process for not getting to go where you wanted or not getting the specialty you wanted, you should look in the mirror and say, “What was my Step 1 score?” “Was I one of the most qualified applicants for the spot that I was trying to match into?” Because I know at the program I am going to, all of the residents are very highly qulified (ie. Step 1 scores of at least 235 and most are around 245-260), so as an applicant, I knew that my board score needed to be in that range. it was, and I matched where I wanted to go; it’s just that simple. Again, don’t blame the Army or the Air Force, blame your application…

  23. lied21 said,


    Your comment is a reasonable response. However, it is not too applicable to what I experienced. As I said in my original post, out of ALL the medical school applicants applying to emergency medicine in 2006, only one got a spot. So, obviously there were many well qualified applicants with great board scores, grades, etc., who did not get to attend residency. Instead, they were forced to do flight surgery for 2-4 years after internship; a huge roadblock in one’s career progression.

    Half M.D.: My experience has been that the Army treats its docs better than the Air Force and Navy do. For example, it tries to get everyone into residency. Only 75% in the AF get that luxury, and the Navy is even worse. I’ve got the scores and publications that were listed above, but those only count for so much in the GME points system.

  24. ArmyDoc said,

    I can’t site the statistics but the truth is that lied21 is correct and the Army is a lot better than the Navy and AF in getting students into their speciality.

    The reason is simple: the GMO or equivalent position is used FAR FAR less frequently and therefore the system is fairer as program directors can pick who they want without factoring in the point system.

    However for the past 2 years the Army HPSP has been short on scholarship recipients, therefore banning nearly all civilian residencies and essentially forcing more students into unwanted transitional years. When these interns begin to apply for residency programs it will essentially create the same problem the Navy and Air Force face with program directors unable to select desired candidates.

  25. AF medstudent said,

    I realize that some people get screwed through this process. I’m sorry for those. I, however, actually had a very good experience. I knew I wanted to do family medicine all along. I was very competitive for this residency both in the civilian world and military. I did a month at the base I asked for, the residents, staff, and I clicked. I interviewed, they thought I did a great job and said they wanted me. I ended up doing exactly what I wanted to do, exactly where I wanted to do it. So, I’m happy. When all you talk about is the negative side, I think you do almost as much disservice as recruiters. I think for what flight surgeons do, its ok to have the one year training. As you mentioned, they’re not doing surgery and they’re not even managing difficult patients. They are managing healthy patients. They aren’t in ICU, etc. and if they need to be there, they go to more qualified doctors. I do agree there over the last few years, there was a shortage and people got screwed into it. I don’t doubt that. I have a buddy that happened to. Maybe not all, but some of these were unqualified I’m sure. But, there are people that don’t match on outside, too. They get screwed into specialties they don’t want. My point is, I’m sorry for those with bad experiences, but I think there are many who are happy too, and that should be mentioned. As for flight surgeon, I agree that the name is misleading, but I think it is a historical title that has followed the job overtime. Maybe its too catchy and maybe recruiters lie (I would be the first to suggest not buying everything a recruiter tells you). However, I think it is naive to go into this specialty without researching it more. Not applicable to those forced into it, but then it wouldn’t really matter if that was the case. They could call it world’s worst job, and your still forced into it. Again, sorry to those screwed, just for those looking into military medicine, realize, there is another side, and alot of people including me are thrilled with how the process went. I advise you to do the best you can and be as competitive as you can for the field you want. God bless and Good Luck!! Hopefully, those that were screwed will get props when applying to there specialty again, I think you deserve it, and thank you for your service whether its what you wanted to do or not!!

  26. rambo said,

    I am currently a 3rd year med student and looking into doing a military residency. My husband is currently trying to enlist in the air force. Does anyone know what the odds are that if I do an Air Force residency my husband will be stationed in the same city? Does anyone know how best to approach this situation? Really we just want to be in the same city while I do residency and he is in the military (preferable the Air Force). Any thought or suggestions as to how best we can make this happen?

  27. Venkat Mangunta said,

    You sound like someone who is ready to talk with little information or experience. Go figure – another one of those. I am currently deployed as a USN Flight Surgeon with a Marine Combat Squadron. I work over 12 hour days. Yes, you are correct, we do not fly planes, but that is not what a Flight Surgeon does. The title, ‘Surgeon,’ given to Military Physicians goes back to the British Armed Forces, such as the Royal Navy. People who understand history understands that a “Battalion Surgeon” or “Flight Surgeon,” is not a General Surgeon. A Flight Surgeon is an Aerospace Medicine Physician. The AF may get 6 weeks of training, we get 6 months. I am not doing this because I have to, I did choose to and soon I will return to Residency Training in Surgery.

    Some of the best Surgeons (General Surgeons, Orthopaedic Surgeons, Head and Neck Surgeons) I have ever worked with….have been in the military. Not sure what your experience with Military Medicine is.

    Anyway, maybe you should spend more time studying and less bantering.

    Take care.

  28. dadofarmydoc said,

    you appear to be one angry fellow.

  29. It's Me said,

    Residency programs, civilian or military, select the best applicants for the spots they have available. Get good grades, graduate towards the top of your class, rock step 1 and you have nothing to worry about. Quit whining and buck up buddy. Choose to control your own destiny.

  30. Lilly Cruz said,

    I too feel misled by the military. As a medical student I was told that, “you can choose any specialty that you want.” “You can choose to do your residency with the military, or with a civilian program.” “97% of military applicants get their first specialty choice.” Well if those were lies, the Air Force recruiter told them.

    For everyone who would like to blame the applicant’s grades as the reason that they are suffering such an injustice, I’d like to say there is a bell curve for every class of geniuses. The laws of statistics demand that some geniuses will fall towards the left of the bell curve.

    As a senior in medical school I applied to the GME for a noncompetitive specialty, and only then began to understand that the statements touted by my recruiter were not entirely true after all. The year of my initial GME application, the Air Force decided to drop the number of available positions in my chosen specialty from eight to two (with no option for civilian training). That’s right, only two military members (med students or flight surgeons) in the entire country would be selected. Absolutely ludicrous. I applied, and because there were more applicants than available positions, I was not selected; along with several other misled souls. I then was forced to complete an intern year. In the midst of my intern year, I again applied to the GME board for the same specialty. That year, the Air Force decided to open up 11 spots; but again I was passed over.

    Now I get to become a flight surgeon. I will be taking care of people with only one year of experience. That to me is scary. Why wouldn’t the Air Force want fully trained physicians taking care of the very people who risk their lives for our country? Don’t our soldiers deserve well trained and competent physicians? I don’t get it. I plan to do flight surgery for four years to pay back my HPSP scholarship and then get out of the military. But at that point, with no completed residency training, and no board certification, who would hire me? I could take the significant pay cut and go back to residency; or I could do something nonclinical. In hind sight, I should have taken out loans, became a specialist making >$200K per year, and by living modestly, easily paid back my loans in 3-4 years.

    This post is for all the medical students who are struggling financially and think the military is the answer. The recruiters will only talk about the pros. Thank you HalfMD for making this website; now the cons can be discussed and medical students can have all the facts before they sign the dotted line. No one really understands except the people who are affected by this scholarship in a negative way. I am happy for all of those who got what they wanted from HPSP.

  31. DS said,

    I kinda felt mislead when going through the match. Thought my dreams were over. Did 3 years in flight med as GMO and had the time of my life and met the best buddies ever (pilots, techs and docs). Did I forget to mention I was the SME for a fighter squadron. By the grace of God got the NASA detailee position in Houston as a junior captain GMO. But without the detailee job I still have had the best career. I have almost completed a gas residency here in Houston and going back AD. To hear the bellyaching is nauseating. Buck up and do your GMO year if selected. It will make you a better leader and give you the experience you will NEVER get in the civilian world. When applying to my civilian residency, I had 20 pages of stuff to write down that I had done and my colleagues had nothing like that. Like I tell everyone that asks me about the military…”if you are flexible and don’t get your feelings hurt, then you will be surprised at good the military will be to you.” Drop me a line if you want to hear the details of how good the life can be.

  32. G. E. Bowlin said,

    I am a Navy flight surgeon and heading for Diego Garcia. Not sure what to expect. Can someone out there give me a heads up on daily life, flight time, etc. Thanks

  33. eizul408 said,

    Thanks for the truth and preventing young people who are inspiring to be a doctor form falling in to the claws of heartless people.

  34. Heading for GMO said,

    I like many applicants was told that through the military I would get exceptional training, be debt free, and end up a better person etc… I am now a transitional year (non preselect, army) that applied again to desired specialty with the information that I would have less than a 5% chance of matching into that specialty, as there is relatively no time between starting transitional year and reapplying (basically the only thing that improved my application was getting something published that had been awaiting approval since 3rd year). As a transitional year you get placed with all of the other people currently serving GMO, which inherently have more “points”, and are more likely to match (separate applicant pool than medical students – with far fewer spots available). That being said, I am trying to be upbeat, but most of these threads don’t show a promising picture. I do owe 7 years, so at least a GMO will repay some of that, and I will not incur any extra time, but at the same time I will be missing out on making board certified pay later than most. I was told that I was an average to competitive applicant with Step1 of 234, Step 2 245 and GPA of 3.3 on a 4 point scale with 1 (now 2 publications) Step 3 results pending…. Unfortunately did not match, and now awaiting available billet slots for GMO.

  35. Mark said,

    I am currently a senior at an undergraduate institution and applying for the Air Force HPSP. As of late I have also been considering applying for the Army HPSP. I am fortunate to come from a wealthy family where money isn’t an issue. I am applying for this scholarship (and maybe Army) solely as an opportunity to serve our country as a doctor. That being said, which branch of the military offers the best chance of obtaining your desired residency? Thanks

  36. PriorService said,

    “Certainly, anyone reading this blog will instantly realize that flight surgeons are missing out on a lot of valuable training in residency. ”

    This post is now 9 years old, so I’m sure the author realized by now that flight surgeon is not a residency. It’s a General Medical Officer tour. After those 3 years you apply for a residency, and it actually works towards your advantage because you now have more points than applicant who have not completed a GMO tour.

    The author was not even really in the Air Force when he wrote this. He was a “reservist” who probably didnt even wear his uniform longer than a week. And yet here he is online bad mouthing a service he knows nothing about. A service who at that point just invested well north of 200K on his education.

    I urge those considering a military path to take these online rants with a grain of salt and reach out and speak to those with accomplished careers.

  37. Duty said,

    Born in ‘khaki diapers’ as one would say, and growing up going to military physicians, I know you. You are not unique. Sad as it may be, the excellent military physicians that I have known are not what inspired me to go to medical school and then the Army … you are. You are the military physician that missed my mother’s diagnosis for years with your apathy. You are the military physician that can’t comprehend selfless service. You are the military physician that I am both grateful for and despise.

    Thank you for your service.

  38. Sanora said,

    During show-down, anyone with the finest cards extends to
    takehome the money.

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