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Why I Chose the Army

Eric Chen prepares to perform a surgical procedure.
By USU External Affairs

Coming into medical school at the Uniformed Services University (USU), Eric Chen knew he had a personal connection to the Army through his best friend, an Army Captain, but ultimately decided on his branch of service for another reason.

“I specifically chose Army over the other branches due to the wide variety of specialties available to me when I became a resident,” Chen said.

Now a 2nd lieutenant in his fourth year, Chen appreciates the unique opportunity given to him by the Army to allow him to explore the various specialties he will be able to focus in on once he begins his residency.

“I felt free to explore the breadth of the medical profession without feeling constrained to a limited subset of specialties,” he said. “I had an idea of what specialty I had wanted to go into, but I was also aware that many students change their desired specialty prior to applying for residency.”

Contrasted to the Navy and Air Force experiences, Chen explains that the Army does not require a General Medical Officer tour, and depending on the circumstances and needs of the Service, it allows students to apply for a military residency program as well as a civilian residency program. 

Being able to have the additional freedom to explore what he wanted to specialize in gave Chen all the incentive he needed to choose Army.

A group of people work on a trauma exercise.
Army 2nd Lt. Eric Chen (left) participates in a trauma scenario during the Gunpowder medical field practicum.
(Courtesy photo)

Starting Out

After commissioning, Chen spent the summer before he started at the Uniformed Services University attending the Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. This course is designed to instruct students on the essentials of transitioning into the Army, including all the details such as proper customs, courtesies, uniform wear, and recognizing military ranks.

“Additionally, we were familiarized with the Military Health System and its role on the battlefield,” Chen said.

While incoming USU students will no longer go through the same course, they will be tasked with completing a similar course with a similar curriculum. 

In addition, the Army requires all new Soldiers to meet a certain number of repetitions in push-ups and sit-ups, as well as a minimum time for a two-mile run every six months. However, according to Chen, the Army is currently set to have a new physical fitness test by 2020.

No matter what branch you choose, Chen said, “[USU] does a great job of ensuring students from every branch have a similar experience to become well-rounded graduates.”

Eric Chen stands at the Bushmaster exercise.
Platoon leader is one of several leadership roles that Army 2nd Lt. Eric Chen (right) took on during USU's 2019
Bushmaster exercise. (Courtesy photo)

The Future 

Coming to USU, Chen assumed he wanted to pursue pediatrics, but with the freedom to explore different specialties and further studying, he came to appreciate the value in radiology and is now aiming to go down that route.  The path to his future as an Army officer and physician will be revealed on Dec. 11 during the annual medical school residency Match Day when he finds out which graduate medical education specialty program he has been selected for.