Only those who have not taken time to explore service in the Army Medical Corps might consider such a setting as limiting for a physician. In truth, the U.S. Army offers first-hand experience with a wide range of cases, access to a significant research component and highly desirable benefits. For those who make the decision to join up, most soon realize what a special opportunity they have been afforded and when coupled with the fact of serving America directly, it helps create a heightened sense of purpose and personal accomplishment.
Scholarships, Mentoring and Research
The U.S. Army provides this opportunity for qualified individuals to obtain scholarships for medical schooling. Major Nathan L. Frost, MD, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Madigan Army Medical Center (MAMC), near Tacoma, Washington, was interested in a military career from an early age. The Health Profession Scholarship offered by the U.S. Armed Forces made it possible for him to attend Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood and to hone his skills in pediatric orthopedics. He has a particular interest and expertise in treating hip, knee, wrist and hand osteoarthritis.
During their medical studies, military students are mentored by senior staff who help guide the educational process. Major Frost is now returning the service that he received as a student while at the same time working in the field he loves. At MAMC he is paying it forward by helping current students who are pursuing their own track in the military medical world. A unique bond frequently develops between Army doctors and students in such a setting and it helps sharpen skills more quickly while strengthening existing talents. A physician’s career in the U.S. Army may even include funding for research that can help foster better outcomes for future patients.
Compassion and Camaraderie
The U.S. Army offers a chance for medical practitioners to serve their peers and families and occasionally other government employees – up to and including the Commander-in-Chief. It is the unquestioned purpose of Army doctors to help ensure that our soldiers are provided with top quality healthcare and are combat-ready should they be called to defend our nation. Additionally, many men and women Army physicians spend considerable time caring for the dependents of our soldiers. Frequently, military doctors see those they treat as members of their own very extended family. Major Frost says he loves getting to take care of kids – “fixing what’s broken” – which brings him great joy and helps him appreciate the journey he has taken to arrive where he is.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
The array and state-of-the-art equipment offered at many military medical facilities is equal to or better than some civilian medical facilities, according to Major Frost. Further, the military is occasionally able to incorporate research from its programs into high-tech treatment opportunities for service members and their families. Another key component of physicians serving in the military is their training in the dynamics and benefits of a team-oriented medical approach. Each medical practitioner on the team is involved in helping determine how patients are treated within his/her area of expertise to help achieve the very best possible outcome. Such a multi-disciplinary team may involve a primary care physician, avariety of field specialists and a psychiatric practitioner to ensure the most complete care is provided.
Accomplishment and Gratitude
While doctors strive to improve their patients’ health and sometimes may actually save their lives, military physicians have a heightened sense of duty that comes from treating the families of their colleagues. Most Army physicians come to realize it is not just their service to our soldiers, but caring for the families of their fellow physicians which helps strengthen the entire system of military medicine.
A U.S. Army physician can take comfort knowing his or her service as an officer and a physician is appreciated close-up by patients and in a more distant, but an equally meaningful way, by a grateful nation.
Major Nathan Frost puts itsuccinctly and poignantly when he says, “I’m glad to have a chance to take care of men and women who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice – they deserve to have the very best medical teams backing them up.”