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High school students get a new perspective on medical school and military service

Students seated at tables in a large room look to military Service members in the distance, who are speaking through a microphone they are sharing between them. (Image credit: Christopher Austin)
By Christopher Austin

“We have a very unique profession where we can say we learn our whole lives, and it doesn’t end when you finish school; you’re constantly learning,” said Navy Commander (Dr.) Arlene Hudson, assistant professor of Anesthesiology in the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine (SOM) at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU). “We work our whole lives to make someone else’s life better, and that provides incredible rewards.”

Hudson was talking to a group of high school students who were visiting USU as part of the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC), a nationwide program that cultivates young leaders and guides them in exploring careers that interest them. The group visited USU to give members a firsthand look at what it’s like to not only pursue a medical career, but also enter into military service.

In addition to touring the campus, students were able to ask questions to USU alumni, including Hudson, and current students. Students learned what it’s like attending with no military experience, what happens after graduation, and tips for acceptance into the University.

“I came in with no military background. I was the first person in my family to do so since the Korean War,” said Army 2nd Lt. Matthew Duff, a student who recently was accepted to USU as part of the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program. “A lot of schools want to know why you want to be a doctor. If you show up and say you want to be a doctor because it’s a cool job and you make good money, that’s not going to go well… they want to see that you’re a well-rounded person. They don’t want to see someone who just focuses on one thing in life. You need to explain why you have a desire to serve in the military.”

The visiting students left with a new perspective on life in the military and what opportunities that it can offer them.

“I made my decision at the end of the day when I saw them interviewing. I realized that they were one; It didn’t matter if you’re Navy, Army, Air Force – you’re all one and you all fight for the same thing,” said Shreeman Pericherla, one of the visiting NSLC students from Pennsylvania. “That’s what I truly love; we’re all serving the same thing. I thought – even though people think ‘Army versus Navy’ and all that stuff – I feel at home here. I feel at home with the people here because I know you all have the same ideals, [you] all help each other.”