Many medical students consider a military scholarship for medical school and have many questions surrounding the process. Medical school is expensive, bottom line, and the anticipated debt after four years can be daunting. The average medical student graduates with just over $180,000 in debt. With a typical re-payment plan, the total repayment cost can exceed $400,000. With such a steep price, it is no wonder why applicants seek out alternative ways to finance medical school.
One of these options is the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) offered by the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The deal is full tuition through medical school, including all costs for books and equipment along with a living stipend in exchange for four years of military service once your education is complete. In this article we will briefly explore the path and day-to-day life of an HPSP student.
In order to join the military you will have to be in touch with a recruiter and complete an application. Many branches still have an automatic acceptance program in which a certain GPA and MCAT score will earn you the scholarship as soon as you get your first medical school acceptance letter. A 1 year scholarship requires 2 years of service, everything after that is year for year. Most students end up taking a 4 year scholarship to cover all of medical school incurring a 4 year commitment to the military.
Most students will complete their basic officer leadership course the summer before medical school or in between their first and second years. During medical school you will look and act just like your civilian peers with no other requirements. In your 4th year, the military will pay for you to do 2 audition rotations/interviews at programs you are interested in for residency. Room, board, and daily costs are covered for a maximum of 45 days.
Most students will end up going to a military residency program. There are exceptions for some of the more specialized branches of medicine but this gets tricky and is a larger discussion. During these 3-7 years, depending on your specialty, you will be active duty. This means you will be wearing a uniform and working in a military hospital. It also means you will be paid as an active duty service member.
Life After Residency
While some physicians will now go on to fellowship training, many will now begin their payback working in their field of specialty at a military hospital or clinic. This is now the first time you will be eligible for deployment. While deployments work on a rotating basis, it is safe to assume that during a 4 year payback you will likely be deployed at least once for 6-9 months. There are, of course, many exceptions.
All in all, the military scholarship is an attractive option. You can finish medical school with zero debt in exchange for military service as a physician which can be very rewarding in its own right. Military physicians receive extra training in leadership skills and adaptability which easily carry over into civilian life.
About the author: David is a board certified family medicine physician in the Army currently working as a flight surgeon. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the HPSP scholarship or life as a military physician in general.