The three major branches of the military, Army, Navy, and Air Force, give out scholarships every year through what’s called the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). This scholarship program is awarded based upon academic requirements as well as letters of recommendation.
The academic requirements are based on MCAT scores, GPAs, and letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are ideally from people that you have worked with or people that have hired you in the past. According to Joel the HPSP is looking for letters that show you are“capable of being a physician as well as being an Officer in the military.“
The program offers a monthly stipend and pays for books, supplies, and tuition. The way in which students give back, however, is a little convoluted. For every year of medical school the HPSP pays, students pay back with one year of service as a full Board-Certified physician. There are variations on the payback process, but that’s the gist of it. In exchange, it is required that every year medical students do 45 days of active duty.
In addition, one has to do another 45 days of what is referred to as a campus tour. Students are required to fulfill four active duty tours in four years. While on active duty, students need to be available in case the Base needs their attention. That being said, it is unlikely that a HPSP student would be called into duty. If they’re calling up a HPSP student, it means all of the fully trained physicians are out and away.
According to Joel, “it’s a very safe position to be in the military. Then again you’re in the military! You have to take orders. There are no options. If the military says ’we’ve got to ship you off to Afghanistan,’ there’s nothing you can say about it. You signed a contract, and you must follow orders.”
“There are pros and cons, just like anything else in life. Advice-wise, I’d say: find what you want to do, make the best of every situation that presents itself”