The bottom line is that our sailors and Marines deserve the best care possible. Within this context, the Navy Reserve Medical Corps simply increases the talent pool of physicians available in the military system. Recruit these doctors intensely, promote them reasonably, and utilize their skills effectively.
Military medicine exists to provide care to military members (and their families) in order to better accomplish the mission. Reserve medical officers are vitally important in this context. The role models we have met in the Navy Reserve Medical Corps are outstanding physician leaders.
They mobilize to back-fill deployed physicians, and they themselves deploy. The United States Navy Reserve Medical Corps allows some of the best and brightest physicians to serve in the military, who otherwise would not have the opportunity to serve.
They bring cutting edge techniques, groundbreaking research, and diversified experience from premier civilian academic and private practices to the military system. This infusion of ideas and energy helps to innovate Navy Medicine. In no field is the revolution of information and new ideas more powerful than in medicine. Healthcare is constantly evolving and reserve service allows all phases of that evolution to come to an already strong active duty Navy.
Most importantly, the reserve option allows those transitioning from active duty to continue to serve. This maintains valuable operational experience which would have otherwise been lost.
It's pivotal to look at where these physicians are in their careers. Medical school takes four years after college, transforms someone into a doctor, and, on average, generates a debt of $176,348. Medical Corps officers receive a direct commission to lieutenant. After that, the real fun starts. Doctors spend anywhere from three to nine years in specialty training (internship, residency, and fellowship.) They learn the skills they need to practice medicine, perform surgery and make a diagnosis. This takes time.
In the active duty community, some will undergo an operational tour (flight surgeon, undersea medical officer, or general medical officer) after internship. A young physician generally promotes to O-4 either during the end of their residency or just at the beginning of their specialty practice. The most unique part of this is that the skills are substitutive and the demand for physicians is constant. Physicians can practice medicine outside of the military. Pilots cannot fly the F/A-18 commercially.
The Navy wants the finest medical care for its personnel; it needs to not only recruit these doctors but also promote them reasonably and utilize their skills effectively to entice young physicians to stay in the military. It's a competitive job market.
Richard Menger is a resident physician and was selected for lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve. He is currently the Hale Champion Public Service Fellow and a Master in Public Administration candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
John Neely is an internal medicine physician currently in an emergency medicine fellowship. He is a lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve.
The authors would like to thank Capt. Donald Stafford for his contributions. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, nor the U.S. Government.