Creating Community in Military Medicine

November 10, 2023

Recognizing the need for a community of military medicine students and physicians within the College of Human Medicine, second-year students Joshua Rabotnick and Rachel Armstrong founded the Military Medicine Interest Group at the college in March 2023. We chatted with Joshua and Rachel to gain insight into the group, their motivation for its creation, and the nature of a career in military medicine. Here's what they shared!

Can you tell us about the mission of the Military Medicine Interest Group?

Our goal is to create a community within the College of Human Medicine for medical students on Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) military scholarships, those with prior service experience, and physician faculty who’ve served in the military.

Military medical students have unique leadership and clinical requirements during medical school tailored to serving the distinct medical needs of the military, coupled with a separate residency application process. As such, our mission is to foster a peer-driven community to help prepare future military physicians at the college and learn from students and faculty in different stages of their education and military service.

Can you tell me more about yourselves, your career in military medicine, and what your role in the group is?  

Joshua: Originally from Los Angeles, I’m the co-founder and co-president of the group. I’ve long considered joining the military but was concerned during high school and undergrad by the time commitment, as I was hesitant to add years to the already long road of becoming a physician. The HPSP scholarship now allows me to proudly serve my country without sacrificing my lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. The financial benefits of the program have been invaluable, as the signing bonus paid off a chunk of my wedding costs, and the monthly stipend helps offset expenses while my wife completes a PhD program. I will proudly serve the Navy as a physician upon graduation.

Rachel: I am the co-founder and co-president of the group and will proudly serve the Air Force following completion of my medical school education. Before medical school, I came to appreciate the perspective and beauty travel brought to my life. Additionally, I also came to recognize how physical and mental discipline enriched my experiences.

I decided to commission with the Air Force because their core values — integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all you do — paired with the opportunity to serve on an international scale, resonated well with the type of lifestyle and physician leader I want to be.

Thus far, I have had the opportunity to attend officer training school prior to starting medical school where I gained lessons in leadership, military customs, combat skills, and resiliency. During our summer break last year, I had the opportunity to attend an aerospace medicine course where I was introduced to the foundations of the flight surgeon specialty. While attending this class, I gained an understanding of our aircraft utilization, the physiology of flight, and had the opportunity to fly an SR22!

What motivated you to start this group at the College of Human Medicine?

Being a military medical student in a civilian program lends itself to many questions along the way, particularly surrounding concurrent officer training requirements and the million-dollar question of how to stand out on military residency applications, as many in our group did not serve before the start of medical school.

The impetus for creating this group was realizing how many of our peers were having similar experiences, we’re hopeful this organization can foster knowledge-sharing and peer support as military medical students navigate their time in med school.

In what ways does the group support students interested in a career in military medicine?

Students prospectively interested in military scholarship opportunities are welcome to attend events, as we hope to have first-hand conversations about service requirements, scholarship benefits, etc. Some who’ve joined the military have questioned the transparency of advice from recruiters, and we hope to provide stress-free, honest feedback from peers now in the armed services.

How does the group plan to evolve in the future?

Our biggest goal for our new group is to stay connected with College of Human Medicine alumni as they graduate and advance throughout their careers. We’d like to create a network of military physicians in a wide range of specialties who can then provide insight and mentorship to future students as they navigate their military medical education.

What does a career in military medicine look like?

First and foremost, in addition to medical training, all physicians are commissioned officers who play purposeful leadership roles within their branch. One thing many find surprising is that the military has virtually all the same medical specialties as the civilian sector, from pediatrics to oncology, plus several niche subspecialties such as flight surgery and deep-sea medicine. Finally, military physicians practice medicine in a host of geographical and clinical environments, ranging from overseas deployments to domestic and academic institutions.

What advice would you give to a student considering a career in military medicine?

Military service comes with a host of challenges and obligations which can rightfully deter many, but for those who choose to make the service commitment to their nation, it can also be tremendously rewarding. Our biggest advice is to not be afraid to reach out and ask questions to decide if this path would be a good fit. Recruiters of all branches in the Lansing area are also highly familiar with the Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) and welcome questions regarding the scholarship and prospective military service.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Military Medicine Interest Group, you can join their GroupMe or reach out to either of the co-presidents, Joshua Rabotnick and Rachel Armstrong.