Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yep, Air Force...

As my lovely wife just pointed out on her blog, we have been considering the Air Force Health Professionals Scholarship Program and, in fact, are a good ways through the application process. Since I've never been the gung ho military type, some of y'all may be wondering why we have decided to take this path. Below is a somewhat rambling explanation of our thoughts regarding this decision. Enjoy:

1) Katie and I love to travel and this is by far the best (and most affordable) way to see the country and the world while we're young. We'll have the opportunity to live overseas as well as participate in humanitarian projects that we wouldn't be able to otherwise if I was in a civilian practice.

2) Starting my medical career in the Air Force assures a ready, compliant patient base for me to serve without the additional constraints of civilian practices. Specifically, I won't have to worry about my patients' ability to pay for a treatment, or deal with pressure from hospital administrators or other docs in my practice to sacrifice quality of care to ensure profits.

3) In addition to paying for medical school (tuition and fees), and receiving a monthly stipend, the pay upon graduation is very comparable and in many instances better than that of civilian practice. Air Force residency programs pay roughly $20,000 more than civilian residencies and then include housing and food stipends, and health, dental, and malpractice insurance provided and it's not even close. Upon completing residency (when my payback time would officially start), the comparability of pay is very much dependent on specialty. If I end up going into Family Medicine (which is my current and strongest inclination), the salary is almost identical (not including the above mentioned perks as well). If I were going into a more specialized field, the salary disparity is much greater.

4) One of our Clinical Skills instructors who is a family doc in the area and served in the Navy after completing medical school said he figured he would have a debt of money or a debt of time upon finishing school. The time he could payback in a one year-to-one year ratio, however, a financial debt would linger with him for 10-20 years. Being debt free will allow Katie and I to meet financial goals we have set earlier and focus on various humanitarian projects etc. that we wish to accomplish with financial blessings that come our way.

5) The opportunity to serve those who have served and are serving our country in the military is an unbelievably humbling prospect and one that I will cherish and give 100% if selected.

Now there are, of course, potential drawbacks that have been mulled over, weighed, and prayed about.

1) Getting placed somewhere we don't want to go. This is unlikely, but is a possiblity. After completing residency, we will get to choose our top 8 bases to be stationed. Again, what specialty I am in will affect this as the Air Force has different needs in different areas, but everywhere is in need of family physicians. From the top 8, most folks get one of their top two. Additionally, how often do you really have the autonomy to choose where you will live and practice? No matter what your job is, or what you are studying, you have to go where the job/school is located. This is just a fact of life.

2) Deployment is a reality, and as an Air Force doctor, I could be deployed a maximum of 4 months at a time. However, following a deployment, I can't be deployed again for 18 months. In a three or four year payback, this is a maximum of one to two deployments. Additionally, a deployment could just as likely be to a hurricane damaged region as to a forward operating base. Again, the Air Force isn't normally on the front lines of conflicts. They're the guys that fly in and drop bombs, without a ground presence like the Army or being water bound like the Navy.

It's important to note, as well, that any deployment wouldn't be required of me until I've completed my residency training (i.e. at least 6-7 years from now).

OK that was pretty long and I'm sure I've left some stuff out and did not articulate all of it well, but hopefully that brings anyone out there wondering up to speed. Don't worry, we'll keep you posted!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

24 hrs.

"You should be compensated well when you're a doctor, considering you have to give up your twenties to become one."

I've heard the above statement more than a few times since starting medical school. And I rebuke it.

It's very true that because of the intense academic undertaking involved with becoming a physician I spend a lot of time in lecture, labs, and, of course, studying. In residency, I will be working 80+ hours per week and working on some form of call schedule for years after that. Yet I refuse to believe that I am somehow conceding an entire decade of my life to the pursuit of the medical profession.

Here's my rationale (in somewhat rambling fashion):

Going to medical school or working a full time job doesn't decrease the number of hours in the day does it? Everyday still has the requisite 24 hours in it. That's the same now as it was when I was in undergraduate, or working in Dallas, and I have a pretty good feeling that's how things will stay in the future. Therefore, it is my responsibility to use the 24 hours I'm given each day to the best of my abilities. Matt Chandler, the pastor at the Village Church, marveled in one of his sermons about how we love to tell everyone how busy we are. It's so true. Watch, the next time you ask a friend you haven't seen in a while how things are going they will undoubtedly tell you how busy they are within the first three sentences of their reply.

But what are we filling up our days (and therefore our lives) with that is making us so busy? Historically for me it has usually been the wasted time that clogs up my weeks and prevents me from being the husband, student, friend, etc. that I have the potential to be. Hours I spent watching TV, farting around on the computer, or recovering from a particularly rowdy evening, could have been hours spent growing in a community or as an individual in any number of ways including, but not limited to spritually, academically, and physically.

I'm not saying that TV, the internet, and drinking are evil by any means. In fact, I've done all three of those activities with good friends as a form of communal bonding. However, it's a heart change that is required to keep those things from becoming life consuming, detrimental, and destructive behaviors and put them in there proper moderate contexts.

Motivating myself to break the chains of apathy and seize each day as a brand new, 24 hour gift gives me the freedom to achieve my potential. I think that my best is what my God, my wife, my friends, my family, and I deserve from me. It takes a daily rededication, and there will always be peaks and valleys, but when I'm able to do this, I don't see how I am letting a single second slip by, let alone a whole decade.

Now enough blogging...My bride is about to get off work!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

an incredible gift

As medical students, we have an amazing opportunity that only one half of one percent of people in this country have. In our educational pursuits, it is imperative that we learn the anatomy and inner-workings of the human body completely and entirely so that we can become knowledgeable and capable physicians. In order to do this, it is requisite that someone gives us an incredible gift...their body.

From day one, our professors impressed upon us the gravity and responsibility that comes with taking on a cadaver in our educational pursuits. There are times, there have been already, when the trials of medical school (namely Biochemistry) detract and distract us from why we are here in the first place. It only takes a moment with our cadaver to remember our goal.

By their choice, our donors have granted us the opportunity to learn first-hand the complexities, structure, and unique aspects of the most amazing creation on this planet, while demonstrating the beneficence that we hope to embody as future physicians. Physicians willing to put the needs of others ahead of their own.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

study break

After a marathon night of studying at Starbucks, while Katie worked her first night shift, we got up relatively early Saturday morning and headed to Austin for the day.

I say relatively early because I'm finding out now that I wake up next to a beautiful woman every morning, it's a lot harder to get out of bed at the first alarm's beckoning.

We did all the Austin things namely hit up Kerby Lane Cafe, walked around UT (and decided that Baylor's campus is better!), took an invigorating dip in the Barton Springs pool, and finished the whole day off with dinner and drinks with our good friends, the Bexley's.

We came back the next day, and admittedly I was a little stressed about the mountain of information I still needed to cover before Thursday, but after a couple of days of focussing on the books, I can say with confidence that it was a much needed and well deserved break from the rigmarole of life in Bryan, TX.

Friday, August 14, 2009

my bride 1

I'm sitting at Starbuck's as I write this post about to commit the next 5 hrs. to studying histology, anatomy, and biochemistry. This is no ordinary Starbuck's, however. This is the place where my wife works.

I am so thankful for the blessing of this job. Katie is fantastic at it and we could not have asked for a better community for her to become a part of! There are the obvious benefits: wages, health care, daily stimulation, and personal interaction (not to mention all the free coffee!). Additionally, however, I get a tremendous feeling of pride and respect for my wife and all of her hard work!

She doesn't even realize it, but she loves me so well just by going to work in that place everyday!

Of course, now it's time for me to show her love by studying my butt off for next Thursday's test.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

the first post

Well...I've got a blog.

I know this is a strange time to start a blog since I got married on July 4th of this year to my amazing bride, Katie, and started medical school just two and a half weeks ago, but I figure there'll never be a perfect time, so why not?

During our orientation a couple of weeks ago, one of our anatomy professors, Dr. McCord, gave a lecture describing how we have officially become public figures upon entering medical school. From now on, we will be representing ourselves as medical professionals. Every interaction with a patient, henceforth is an opportunity to make an impression. In today's age of instant and easily accessible information, a two second Google search of a someone's name will turn out an entire page of results. The point being that anything that you put out there can be read and seen by anyone. This includes our peers, future residency admission boards, and, most importantly, our patients.

Today, our Introduction to Clinical Skills professor, Dr. Wiprud, mentioned that many patients have a distrust for their physician. Many trust TV commercials, Wikipedia entries, or marketing directors of herbal remedies over the knowledge, experience, and beneficent obligation of their doctor. He proposed that one way to establish and enhance the patient-physician relationship is to utilize the communication methods at our disposal today. Other physicians have echoed this sentiment.

I have followed two physicians' blogs for a few months now and since I don't have a Facebook or Twitter account, I feel like this is the best way to toss my hat into the ring.

The two blogs that I've been following are linked here. One is an emergency medicine physician and the other is in primary care.