People of Campbell Medicine Military Medicine Alumni
Photo above: Lt. Laura Barba (DO, '17) is a US Naval 3 rd year resident at Walter Reed.
The Class of 2017 included ten members of the United States Military’s Health Professions Scholars Program. Four graduates placed into residency at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
DAREN FOMIN, DO, CPT, MC, USA Resident Dermatologist (PGY-3)
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE MILITARY MEDICINE? My father was a career Army physician, so I grew up in a military family. With the exception of undergrad, the military lifestyle is all I knew. I enjoyed the sense of duty, the moving around the world, and the emphasis on supporting "the mission." My family is also extremely patriotic, as my father was born under communist Soviet rule and escaped to the freedom of the United States as a teenager. From my earliest days, I knew I wanted to be a soldier and in undergrad, I went on a few mission trips through my church which put a passion for medicine into me. Combining the two, military and medicine was the perfect option. Every vocation in all practice settings has its set-backs. My Christian faith and the Army have taught me to be content in all situations, change what you can, and, as we say in the Army, "adapt and overcome." (But, it was "difficult" to leave living in Hawai'i to move to Washington, DC to finish PGY2-4).
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST EXCITING/REWARDING ASPECT OF RESIDENCY? Training at two of the most renowned hospitals in the world. My internship was at Tripler Army Medical Center which is a Department of Defense catchment center for 52% of the world. You get to see advanced diseases and trauma of all sorts. Interestingly, I had the privilege of resuscitating a dying marine who suffered from a gunshot wound to the pelvis on my ICU rotation intern year. I was a part of a team to bring him out of the throes of death, manage his pain, and stabilize him for over a month before sending him to Walter Reed for further surgical care. When I got to Walter Reed, he actually became a patient of mine in Dermatology, and I now get to do some scar revision on the scars we gave him saving his life. I regularly see extremely rare medical and surgical dermatologic cases, and we practice at a very high volume which is extremely rewarding. We also work closely with the NIH and get to see some of the rarest of the rare diseases.
IS THERE A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE TO MILITARY MEDICINE VS. TRADITIONAL? Absolutely there is. Medicine in the military focuses on preserving and enhancing the nation's military force. I'm not treating just a patient, I am treating a soldier on an elite counter-terrorism unit or an aviator flying a multi-million dollar platform involved in our nation's defense. I am also treating their dependents (wives/ children) so they aren't full of undue worry and can focus on the mission at hand. Also, I am caring for retirees who have risked their lives and health for our defense in wars fought decades ago (as much as possible, I love to hear the tales they have to tell). Lastly, we care for many in the highest echelons of our government and department of defense which adds to the acuity of the situation many times, knowing that the health of these patients can determine happenings at the highest level. We are also trained (yes, even as dermatologists) to deploy and care for the battlefield wounded (i.e. trauma in austere environments, weapons qualified and all!).
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR FOLKS CONSIDERING MILITARY MEDICINE? Never apply for any other reason other than from the desire to defend the Constitution of this country and all it contains. Loans can be repaid in an easier manner; more money can be made elsewhere, etc. You are first seen as a military officer, and second as a physician. Deployment to the battlefield is a very real possibility. That being said, this patient population is very unique and the training opportunities are second to none. For instance, you can go to several military training schools (Ranger school, Airborne school, Air Assault school, etc), train at some of the top training programs in the nation (many Dermatology texts are actually authored by prior service physicians who directed my program in the past), deploy regularly on humanitarian missions, and get medical training you would not otherwise have as a civilian physician.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOUR CAREER? After graduating from residency, I will likely become a staff Dermatologist somewhere in the world at a US Army hospital for a minimum of four years. Fellowships are wide open during that time, too. Some of my colleagues have deployed, mostly in a humanitarian capacity at this time, so that is also a possibility as well. After that, who knows? Maybe back to Buies Creek!
ANY LAST THOUGHTS? Military medicine, particularly dermatology, is second to none. I would make the decision all over again without hesitation. Campbell prepared me well for the rigors of a world-renowned residency, and the military is training me to practice anywhere in the world and under any conditions imaginable. Enjoy your time at CUSOM! Please reach out if I can help.
JONATHAN STORMER, DO, CPT, MC, USA, WRNMMC PM&R (PGY-3)
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE MILITARY MEDICINE & WHEN/HOW DID YOU MAKE THAT CHOICE? I always wanted to serve in the military and I felt like this was my last chance. Having a family also made the HPSP scholarship even more appealing not only financially, but also for the health care benefits, especially having a child with cystic fibrosis. I mentally committed to pursuing military medicine early in the process so I called the local health care recruiter the day after I received the acceptance letter.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST CHALLENGE OF YOUR RESIDENCY EXPERIENCE SO FAR? By far the most challenging and stressful experience was matching into my residency program. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation is consistently one of the most competitive residencies in military medicine due to the small size and number of applications. It is one of the smallest residencies in the military and only Walter Reed National Military Medical Center offers it. I did not match initially, but I was blessed to complete my intern year in Hawaii and was accepted after reapplying.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST REWARDING ASPECT/EXPERIENCE OF YOUR RESIDENCY? Although living in Hawaii for a year with my family was an unbelievable experience for all of us, the people I work with and the patients I take care of are definitely the most reward aspect of my residency training. We take care of a lot of the special operations forces because they are frequently injured due to the inherent danger of their jobs. Hearing their stories and watching them gain function and independence after horrific injuries makes it easy to go to work. Our top notch staff make our program one of the best in the country and the caliber of my co-residents is humbling.
IS THERE A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE TO MILITARY MEDICINE VS. TRADITIONAL? Our patients have complete access to care. If there is something they need from MRI's to multiple specialized custom prostheses, we can get it and we don't have to fight with insurance companies. Our wounded warriors frequently receive multiple prosthetic limbs for various activities like running, biking, and golfing. The National Institute of Health is right across the street and my son's CF doctor was able to access a cutting edge triple combination CFTR modulator that treats the underlying cause of his mutation that will not be available to the general public in his age group for several more years. His medications are very costly worth well over $30k/mo and the pharmacy gives us a 90 day supply for free with no issues. This access to care is unfortunately not ubiquitously available in the civilian sector.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR FOLKS CONSIDERING MILITARY MEDICINE? Don't just do it for a free ride through medical school. Do it because you want to lead in your field of medicine as a military officer, you want to take care of our unique patient population, and you are willing to accept everything that entails including grooming standards, fitness, deployments, and personal sacrifice.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU IN YOUR CAREER? I have a little less than 2 more years of residency and then I begin a minimum payback of 4 years. It is difficult to see beyond that and military medicine is currently in flux, but I am very happy where I am for now and I'm looking forward to the journey ahead. When I finish my residency I could stay where I am, or PCS to Washington, Texas, or even back to Hawaii.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE? There are downsides to military medicine. You have to balance medical education with military requirements. Our software and hardware are often subpar. Attending pay can be significantly less than civilian pay depending on the specialty. Some struggle with height, weight, or fitness standards. You can't travel more than 250 miles without leave approval from your company commander. There is a lot of extra paperwork, and you have to move frequently. However, if you're up for the adventure and you focus on the positives, it can be an extremely rewarding and exciting experience.
MICHAEL SUMNER, DO, LT, Navy, USA Flight Surgeon Carrier Air Wing Eight
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE MILITARY MEDICINE AND WHEN/HOW DID YOU MAKE THAT CHOICE? Growing up on military bases my whole life (moved every ~4 years from Saudi, Hawaii, South Korea, Japan, Germany, New Jersey) and my experience with Navy JROTC in high school, I knew I wanted to serve at least a few years in the Navy. Also, my grandfather was an Air Force pilot in WWII, Vietnam, and the Korean War, so military service has always been an interest of mine.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST CHALLENGE OF YOUR RESIDENCY EXPERIENCE SO FAR? The greatest challenge for me is probably similar to most residents whether civilian or military, and that's living in the hospital 6 days a week for 12+ hour shifts. Thankfully, I'm now a Flight Surgeon (out of residency) and practicing medicine on my own with just an internship under my belt, which is the new great challenge.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST REWARDING ASPECT/EXPERIENCE OF YOUR RESIDENCY? The most rewarding aspect of my residency was being able to treat our men and women in uniform and their family, especially those wounded in combat. Their sacrifice and service cannot be thanked enough.
IS THERE A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE TO MILITARY MEDICINE VS TRADITIONAL? The biggest difference between military medicine and civilian medicine, in my opinion, is the healthcare system itself. It's great not having to deal with insurance companies, being able to provide any medication/care needed without jumping through pharmaceutical/insurance hoops. However, we are still using an electronic health record from the 1990s while my civilian counterparts are using state of the art EMRs which is frustrating. The wheels of government turn slowly, but pros and cons to everything. We plan to have a semi-new EMR up and running throughout our military facilities by 2023.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR FOLKS CONSIDERING MILITARY MEDICINE? If you are considering military medicine, make sure you know exactly what you're getting into - i.e. possibility of being deployed, not getting the orders/ billet you want, not being able to complete residency straight through, some specialties (especially surgical specialties) have a low patient population and acuity than their counterparts, and more. However, also know the great opportunities (like myself being able to fly in F-18s experiencing a force 7x that of gravity, possibly being stationed in Greece/Spain/Italy/Hawaii, better pay than civilian residents, etc...). You need to make sure you understand and be ready for any and all possible outcomes that come with being in the military, and be able to adapt to whatever situation may occur whether good or bad.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU IN YOUR CAREER? My Navy commitment ends in June 2022, but I plan to extend as a Flight Surgeon for another two years until 2024 (because I'm having an absolute blast). Then I'll go back to Walter Reed to finish my last two years of Internal Medicine residency and maybe pursue a sub-specialty in Heme/Onc or Aerospace Medicine to maybe qualify for a NASA astronaut physician position; going to the ISS would be an amazing opportunity. Hopefully I have it all figured out by 2024!
ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE? Go Navy, beat Army!
ABOUT MICHAEL: Lt. Sumner was certified as a Naval Flight Surgeon at the Naval Aerospace Medic Institute (NAMI) in May 2019. He is current living in Virginia Beach, VA and is 1 of 3 primary care physicians for a Carrier Air Wing (attached to the USS Bush) that consists of 3 jet squadrons, 2 helicopter squadrons, and 1 electronic attack fixed wing squadron – about 1500 sailors.