Packing up a suitcase every 5 to 10 weeks and moving everything you anticipate you’ll need is the lifestyle of a “Road Warrior”. That’s what we students from the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) call ourselves when we opt to spend our 3rd year of medical school doing our clinical rotations at different military hospitals around the country. The Hebert School of Medicine is the only military medical school in the United States. Located in Bethesda, Maryland, it educates medical students in the U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force and Public Health Service for 4 years, like our civilian counterparts, but students also receive additional training in military medicine with practical field exercises built into the curriculum. Many students have no connection to the military prior to attending USU but have the opportunity to commission as officers once accepted into the medical school. I commissioned into the U.S. Air Force when I was accepted. This means most of my medical education and training is done in uniform and my patients are usually active duty military personnel, retirees and their families.
Not many medical students can claim they lived in 7 states in 11 months but that’s exactly the experience I had last year. Some classmates opted to stay in the local Maryland/Washington, DC/ Virginia area for rotations, especially those with families. As a firm believer that “all God’s children need traveling shoes,” I left Maryland on a cold January morning for Pensacola, FL with the goal of spending my entire year chasing the sun around the country while learning from some of the most experienced physicians in America.
Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, where I did my elective Infectious Diseases rotation was a pleasant surprise. In March, the coast was cool and the heat was not yet oppressive. Some restaurants in town offered military discounts which I took advantage of as Hebert School of Medicine students are on active duty status all 4 years of medical school. My weekends were spent reading about antibiotics and antivirals on the Biloxi Beach or driving an hour away to New Orleans, LA to listen to jazz and eat shrimp po’boys in Lafayette Square.
Coronado, California, where I stayed during my pediatrics rotation, looked like the stuff of storybooks. After a long day learning about childhood rashes, upper respiratory illnesses and developmental milestones at the Naval Medical Center, San Diego, I would join a few of my classmates at the beach to eat dinner and watch the sunset. It was the perfect treat.
I gathered stories from every location. Some assignments, such as geriatric home visits, gave me opportunities to learn from my patients outside the hospital while continuing to develop ideas on how to help my patients in the future, regardless of their locale.
The uniqueness of the military population allowed me to meet some very special people. I met several WWII-era veterans in Tacoma, Washington, during my internal medicine rotation and had the good fortune of helping to deliver a baby during my obstetrics and gynecology rotation in Honolulu, Hawaii. In San Antonio, Texas, where I ended my year on a Surgery rotation, I had the unique opportunity to see the Vena Cava vein during an exploratory laparotomy on a night with the Trauma Surgery team. I saw enough there to make any medical student want to stay for 24-hour call on a weekend.
Being a student at the Hebert School of Medicine at USU, known as America’s Medical School, has afforded me numerous opportunities over the last 3 years to see America and its people from coast to coast while learning to care for service members, veterans, and their families. As an added bonus, being on rotations with fellow classmates allowed me to get to know many of them outside the classroom as we helped each other navigate the challenges of medicine on the wards. I think most medical students would agree that 3rd year/the first clerkship year is challenging, but I cannot think of a better way to have spent it!
About Omojo Odihi
Omojo Odihi is a 4th year medical student at the F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of The Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. She graduates in May 2016 and is currently applying for a residency in Family Medicine with the U.S. Air Force. She is most recently from Laurel, Md., but identifies as a third culture kid having grown up in Nigeria and Brunei Darussalam as well as the U.S.
Omojo enjoys writing and reading poetry and is a member of USU Apollo Society, a society that explores art in medicine. Her recent poems have been on the subject of military medicine. She was an avid member of the USU A cappella group, The Dermatones, the Christian Medical Association and the Pathology Interest Group during the Pre-clerkship years. You may reach her with questions about her experiences at USU and the military at email@example.com.