What to Expect in a Military Residency

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Joel Harding, who is now at the David Grant USAF Medical Center – Travis Air Force Base, tells us about the military residency selection process.

    According to Joel, there are advantages and disadvantages in the military residency selection process. For starters, once you apply to military residency programs, you commit to starting residency. You cannot change your mind and take a year off. Once you apply, you must continue. You sign a contract and must follow through.

    Joel will submit his application for vascular surgery in September. There are three positions available. If he gets accepted, he will either train as a vascular surgeon within a training facility in the military, or he will train as a vascular surgeon in the civilian world. However, if he is not one of the three chosen ones, he will be placed on his secondary rank and will train in general surgery.

    According to Joel, the main difference between civilian match and military match is that in the military you don’t get to take a transitional year. During a transitional year, you may do research and re-apply to your first choice. The military requires you to go to your secondary program. “That’s kind of the scary thing about the way the military scholarship works, but they released data this year that showed that seventy eight of the people got what they wanted for their first position. That means almost eighty percent of everybody that was in a scholarship this last year got what they wanted.”

    Travis Air Force Base is the only facility in the Air Force that does vascular surgery. If Joel were to get selected, he could potentially work at Travis Air Force Base and partnership with the University of California Davis in Sacramento, which is considered an active duty position. Residents in the active duty positions are paid and could be deployed. Though deployment is unlikely, since residents are not fully trained yet.

    The Air Force always takes very good care of you. Their motto is ‘mission first, but family always.’

    The same basic principles for applying for residency are there. You apply, if you get into your first choice, great! Otherwise, you get your second choice, but, all in all, most people are pretty satisfied with the way it works. “The Air Force always takes very good care of you,” says Joel. “My wife was actually pregnant with our oldest kid, our daughter Adeline. She was about to deliver while I was at training and so they said, ‘we understand what’s going on. You’re required to be here, but we can fly you back home for twenty four hours and bring you back home.’ Their motto is ‘mission first, but family always.’ Thankfully it didn’t come down do that. My wife delivered a week late so I was able to make it home in time. They were prepared to fly me home at any minute. It’s hard to think of many businesses that would do that, right?”

    To share your unique story with us, send us a note at cramfighter@blueprintprep.com.