We are asking members to provide a brief paragraph (maybe 2 or 3 sentences) relaying an important lesson or life tidbit or message for those coming behind them that would be helpful or beneficial. A retired military physician could relay something about patient care or officer training . . . . A resident may wish to divulge his success in landing his top program choice. Maybe a student has a tip for the COMLEX exam. It can be anything that you wish to share with your peers that may help them and EVERYONE has something to share.
If you would kindly send an email to Stephanie Wilson at Wilson@amops.org with the Subject Matter line listed as: Perspective From a Peer, she will include your perspective.
Thank you in advance for your participation with this project. It is intended to help everyone as that is part of the AMOPS’ mission. Please reach out to Stephanie with any questions or concerns.
Richard Jeffries, DO
RADM (retired), Medical Corps, USN
You are always in control of your life. Things happen to you from external sources but how you respond is up to you. Yes, you can respond with success. It might not always be the way you planned but you have the choice to make it something successful or a failure from what you are given whether it is an assignment/job, career move, family situation or unexpected challenge. One example for me was the Navy and medicine. After college I was unsuccessful in getting into medical school. It was tough times for admission with the Viet Nam war and medicine about the only exempt opportunity from the draft. Everyone wanted in and with repeated rejections you became less acceptable. Instead of being drafted I went for Navy pilot. Once again rejected and back to washing dishes. They said my eyesight was a problem. (I'm still 20/20 today!) I wasn't chosen in the lottery and choose another career.
Over time I decided that what I still really wanted was medicine and went after it. Persevering, helpful friends and willingness of others to give me a chance resulted in acceptance, but how to do it with a wife and two little girls. After being placed on hold by all the services and a couple of states, the Navy finally came through with a scholarship and a way.
As a DO, there was little hope of moving up especially when there was obvious prejudice by many in power during residency and first assignment. However, others believed and supported, especially Navy DO and MD mentors, and again with passion, commitment and choosing to find success in every assignment, situation and opportunity things happened beyond my expectations culminating in two stars and a difference making career! The bottom line: you have a choice in every situation, make it the best you can and go into it with determination of succeeding, a passion for doing things right, and the faith that where there is a will there will be way whether it is what you wanted/expected or beyond your wildest dreams! It can and will happen to each of you as you believe.
David W. Towle, DO
COL (RET), MC, USAR
The US Armed Forces is so large that it operates best within the confines of its preexisting matrix. Recommendation: Never, ever take an assignment that is “out of the box”, as while the work may be rewarding or of great significance the system simply cannot track your service and contributions. Seven years of my service were lost to the “Big computer in the sky” because my position did not have a corresponding numerical tracking code. All of my OERS, US and foreign awards, and service credit had to be entered by an Army Board of corrections. If you have no one claiming ownership, you are simply and sadly “free floating” in the matrix. Stay in regcognized and authorized positons and within your MOS specialty realm.
Charles Holt, DO
COL (RET), MC, USAR
From my personal experience and those of hundreds of other vets (I was in the USAR for 34 years and have been working at the VA for 20 years) I have a few comments:
1. Once you enter the military service, unless you are certain you will never, ever rejoin, do not resign your commission or be completely discharged, before achieving and receiving your 20 Year Letter, which confirms your eligibility for retirement pay. After my 4-year payback for my HPSP at the mecca, KCOM, I decided to transfer into the USAR and not just get out.
I am so glad I did and have had innumerable experiences and travels and friends, all over the world, because of it. As well, in just 3 more years, I can claim my monthly USAR retirement pay (AD (active duty) retirement pay starts immediately). So, either stay AD or stay in the Reserve or NG (National Guard). One problem with getting out for a while is that you can suffer some decline in your health that may render you ineligible to be reassessed into the service. Accession standards are very strict, whereas retention standards are fairly lax. I cannot count the number of vets who, for instance, tore a knee ligament with some chronic pain resulting and difficulty running after leaving the military…and were denied re-entry. While in the military, most common ailments can result in a PP (permanent profile) and allow the SM (service member) to remain in.
2. If you work for the federal government, it is very user friendly for those in the Reserve and NG. You will receive lots of military time off that doesn’t effect your vacation time and will pick up your entire family health insurance costs while deployed and you don’t have to use TRICARE. As well, you can buy into the federal retirement system, for example the VA retirement system, for each day you are on AD…so, that is one less day at your federal job before you can retire—Woo Hoo! This is called Post 56.
Wayne Z. McBride, DO, MPH
CAPT (ret) MC USN
TRANSITIONING TO A CIVILIAN PRACTICE
As you consider leaving active duty, whether just having completed your service commitment or retiring after a successful military career, there are several considerations you need to keep in mind. As you prepare for your last duty station, seeking an assignment in a state or region close to where you may want to find a job and live can be valuable, placing you in a favorable position to scope out opportunities. No later than a year before you plan to separate, going to a national CME meeting within your specialty will give you the opportunity to network with recruiters and headhunters regarding opportunities and positions to consider.
Depending on whether you would like to have a clinical practice, be involved in a teaching program, or work in an administrative role, try to maximize experiences that will prepare you for these opportunities before you separate. If your recent experience has been predominately in operational assignments or staff work, but you want to get in a practice when you get out of the military, it will be helpful to have some reinforcing clinical experience before you get out.
There are scores of Internet sites that list practice and other job opportunities for physicians. These include DO Jobs Online, JAMA, NEJM, and even general career sites such as Indeed, Monster usajobs.gov. Specialty societies can also be a resource in identifying positions. Lastly, headhunters or search firms, such as Witt Kieffer and Grant Thornton, etc., can assist in identifying physician leadership, medical director, academic and training program positions.
Networking can also be a very effective way to find opportunities and to get visibility. There are many AMOPS members who have retired from the military and now work in a myriad of settings who would be happy to offer advice and provide mentorship. It’s never too early to start!
Simon Sarkisian, MS
2nd Lieutenant, United States Army
Student-Doctor, Touro University-California, College of Osteopathic Medicine
The 3rd Wednesday of December is a day you will mark down in all your calendars as a 4th year student. This is the day the Military Match results are released. This past 3rd Wednesday of December I received word that I had matched into Emergency Medicine at Darnall Army Medical Center in Fort Hood, my #1 choice! I learned many lessons about the military and about myself from this Match process. Although it is not fool-proof and may not apply to all military residency programs, these lessons worked for me.
So, my advice to 4th year students beginning their auditions rotations is...Keep an open mind at each site regardless of what your pre-audition-rotation rank list looks like (Fort Hood was no where near #1 before I walked through those hospital doors). Talk to residents and attendings and ask them why they chose that particular location/residency. Introduce yourself to the program director and ask him/her what you can do to make yourself a better applicant for their program. Be proactive: ASK to do procedures, but don't come off as THAT overbearing student. Admit that you don't know an answer but that you will look it up. Don't lie. Respect ALL nurses and techs. Find out if alumni from your school attended that residency program and contact them for advice. Go to all social outings with other students, residents or attendings. Make friends with the other students you audition with (these will be the students who you work with for the remainder of your career in the military). Don't be a gunner. Find an attending you like and try to do shifts with him/her in order to ask for a letter of recommendation at the end of the rotation. Prepare questions to ask your interviewers during your interview. Prepare answers to questions they will ask you. Hand/mail your hand-written thank you letters to your interviewers after the interview. Don't lose track of yourself; the match season can be long and stressful so make sure you have an outlet to get away from it all. The GME office or HPSP office may not have all the answers you need so reach out to your fellow HPSP students, and pay it forward each time you do. Finally, at the end of all this you will love 1 program more than the others. Rank that place #1, and contact the Program Director around the 1st week of October to tell him/her that. Don't lie."
David B. Canton, David D.O., M.P.H., J.D.
Chief Medical Officer, Shasta Community Health Center
While in high school, I worked as a bagger in a grocery store. As I was about to enter the Army, the manager of the store who had been a Second Lieutenant in Viet Nam told me “Always do what you're told to do, when you're told to do it in the amount you're told to do it in.” That advice kept me out of trouble a number of times when my poor judgment and immaturity could have led me down the wrong path. I think that the same advise goes for a young junior officer.
Then, in Boot Camp, the Company Commander, a First Lieutenant, told me “make the most of every opportunity.” I took that to heart and always looked for ways to gain more skill or learn something new. Over 34 years of uniformed service, I had a lot of bad assignments but I never had a single assignment I didn’t like! I learned that despite how much I gave, I always received more from those around me. Years later, I have had a number of people tell me how much I affected their careers in a positive fashion, but they will never appreciate how much they, and others, affected my life in a positive fashion. If you strive to make the most of every opportunity you will always be richer.