Lt. Col. Luis Otero talks to a patient during his clinic hours at FE Warren AFB in Cheyenne.
By Tom Lacock
Wyoming Medical Society
While many Wyoming physicians have previously served in the US Armed Forces, opportunities abound for doctors interested in being a part of the military.
Most days Jeff Storey is a physician at Cheyenne Women’s Clinic, but at least one weekend a month and two weeks a year he is the Group Commander for the 153rd Medical Group of the Wyoming Air National Guard. He says the Guard is always looking for physicians and is tasked with maintaining the health and care of 1,100 members of the air wing in Cheyenne. He says the 153rd has several opportunities, including acting as flight surgeons (caring for aircrew members with flying duties), critical care air transport teams and more.
He says the National Guard has less stringent requirements than active duty military requires for entry into the service. While the Guard prefers physicians age 45 and under, it will admit older doctors with a waiver. Storey says doctors interested in serving should be in generally good health, cannot be considered morbidly obese and will have to pass an annual physical fitness test, which includes requirements of sit-ups, push-ups, a waistline measurement and a 1.5-mile run.
Storey says the requirements of doctors in the Guard includes one weekend a month and two weeks a year. While the pay isn’t necessarily high, he says the opportunity to see the world and significantly-reduced health care through Tricare make it worthwhile. He adds that although there is always a risk of deployment, in the past 10 years the 153rd has not deployed anyone involuntarily.
Hospitalman Chief Matt Birchall of Navy Health Professions in Denver says the Naval Reserve is in need of physicians in all specialties. The Navy requires a three-year commitment with physicians serving one weekend per month and two weeks a year at a local Naval Reserve Center (likely Cheyenne, though some might be able to drill in Billings or Salt Lake). For those more than 50 miles from drill, the Navy includes travel pay and low-cost health and dental coverage through Tricare.
The two-week training is conducted at an alternate location — most likely a Naval Treatment Facility. The Navy offers signing bonuses of up to $75,000, which varies depending on specialty. Doctors interested in serving must be under the age of 58 (though they will consider all ages for critical specialties), pass a physical exam and must be licensed to practice in the U.S.
The Army Medical Corps seeks physicians to conduct and supervise direct patient care, and plan and execute disease prevention and health promotion programs. Additionally, physicians may conduct medical research on diseases of military importance and more. Army-provided data credits Army medicine with overseeing $1.4 billion in research and development each year and manages 148 graduate medical education programs.
To take part in the Army’s Medical Corps, a physician must between the ages of 21-42, be licensed in the U.S. or Puerto Rico, be eligible for board certification, and complete an approved graduate medical education internship in family medicine. Among the benefits of doing so listed by the Army are no need for malpractice insurance, paid continuing education, 30 days of paid vacation, retirement, and no-cost of low-cost medical and dental care.
Why Do It?
Lt. Col. Luis Otero, MD, the Chief of Medical Staff at F.E. Warren, says many things about practicing medicine in the Air Force are similar to doing so in private practice. Advantages include not dealing with as much insurance paperwork, but there is the added obligation of letting commanders know if their personnel can perform deployed missions.
Captain Jim Caruso, MD, works with Naval Medical Recruiting out of Denver after joining the Navy in 1984. He says he got into military medicine as a way to pay for medical school. He was assigned positions all around the world including nine months in support of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm with additional deployments in Somalia and Panama. He later served as a pathologist, a flight surgeon and a forensic pathologist working several high-profile missions such as the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. He is the chief medical examiner for the City of Denver while taking retirement pay and health care, in addition to tapping his unused GI Bill benefits to send his oldest daughter to college.
“A career in Navy Medicine set me up well for the next chapter. I obtained excellent training, honed my leadership skills much earlier than most physicians ever will, and gained notoriety in my field.”
Storey says it’s commonplace to say no one joins the military for the money, but mentioned the travel opportunities he has experienced, as well as the opportunity for training as reasons he has stayed in the military.
“I do it because of the benefit of feeling like you are contributing to both your community and country,” Storey says. “It sounds somewhat trite, but it is the meaning of patriotism to commit to the military and serve the country.”
For more information on joining the Naval Reserve, contact Chief Matt Birchall at 303-746-3107 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To discuss service through the Air National Guard, contact Jeff Storey, MD, at 307-637-7700.
For more information on military careers in the Army, contact Lyndie S. Corder: email@example.com