For medical students serving in the military, matching into a residency program occurs earlier than the civilian match. This year, two fourth-year medical students at Baylor participated in the military match. Hear from Daniel O’Conor and Adam Burgess on how their experiences at Baylor helped them prepare for their military residency training in emergency medicine and neurology, respectively. Both students matched at the San Antonio Military Medical Center.
How long have you been serving in the military?
I joined the Air Force as part of the Health Professions Scholarship Program after receiving my acceptance to medical school during my final year of undergraduate studies at Texas Christian University. I was commissioned as a second lieutenant in March 2017.
I graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2017 and was accepted to BCM on the Army Health Professions Scholarship Program.
What got you interested in serving as a military physician?
Both my father and grandfather served in the Air Force, and I saw the many sacrifices that military service members make for our country. When I decided to pursue medicine, I already knew that I wanted to be able to provide care for the men and women in the military.
An internship at the Army Institute of Surgical Research demonstrated to me the opportunities to contribute to the care of critically injured service members. I am looking forward to serving on a team of like-minded individuals dedicated to providing care in austere environments.
How has your medical training at Baylor prepared you for your career as a military physician?
Baylor has been an incredible training environment. In addition to the top-notch educators, one of the strengths of Baylor’s training is the wide variety of clinical sites where we rotate. By providing exposure to a variety of clinical settings and large population of patients, Baylor has prepared me to confidently practice medicine in any setting with a very strong clinical foundation.
BCM provided me with diverse clinical experiences to explore specialties and find my best fit. The faculty and students create wonderful opportunities to learn in the classroom, in clinics, from workshops organized by interest groups and as part of research teams. The support of the Military Medical Student Association and our faculty and resident mentors, including our advisor, Dr. Porea, prepares BCM students for success in the military match.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your last year of medical training and what has it taught you?
I had essentially completed my core clerkships by the time the pandemic struck, so my foundational training was unaffected. However, my elective clerkship experiences and residency application process were drastically changed by the pandemic. Student clerkships were canceled for several months at the start of the pandemic, and changes to the workflow at our hospitals and clinics impacted our ability to schedule elective rotations and decreased the number of patients we were able to interact with on those rotations. Despite the difficulties, seeing the incredible response of the healthcare workers in the TMC has reenergized my love of medicine and makes me eager to begin residency. The pandemic has also served as a reminder of the importance of being adaptable. As COVID-19 interrupted scheduling for away rotations, standardized exams and residency interviews, my classmates and I had to practice patience and cope with a lot of uncertainty during a crucial transition point in our careers.
Due to the unique organization of the military healthcare system, Army medical education adapted to the pandemic in different ways than many civilian training sites. BCM deans and Registrar’s Office were very supportive in accommodating the requirements and helping me meet deadlines so that I could be competitive in the match. The experience underscored the importance of planning for the future but also being flexible when circumstances change.
What made you interested in your specific residency specialty?
Neurology has always been an academic interest of mine since childhood. Several friends and family members in my life have experienced neurological disease, and learning about their conditions fueled an interest that I have carried with me. Neurology is also the most interesting medical field to me because there is still so much more to learn about the nervous system and neurophysiology. Neurology is a field that has seen a lot of progress in diagnosis and treatments in recent years, and I am excited to see the field continue to evolve and watch as diseases now considered incurable may become things of the past.
I applied to emergency medicine not only because of the opportunities to care for critically ill patients but also take on the challenge of identifying which patients are very sick and in need of intensive intervention and which patients can be safely discharged to follow-up care at a later time. I am interested in many of the niches in which emergency medicine providers can choose to specialize, including critical care, wilderness medicine, emergency medical services and aerospace medicine.
What are you most looking forward to about your residency training?
In addition to the increased responsibility in managing the care of my patients, I am looking forward to residency because I will get to start narrowing the scope of my training from the broad studies of medical school to the more focused study of neurology.
I am excited to get more hands-on experience and take on more responsibility caring for patients. I also look forward to building camaraderie with my future co-residents as we navigate the challenges ahead!
Anything you want to add?
I have been blessed to have the support of my wife Courtlyn throughout my medical school experience and residency application process. She also works in medicine as a physician assistant in the Head and Neck Surgery Department at MD Anderson.
The emergency medicine residency at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio is three years long. BAMC is the only Level I trauma center and the only burn center in the Department of Defense. Emergency medicine residents receive the majority of their training at BAMC but also have clinical rotations at partner institutions in the San Antonio area and a few back in Houston! There are 18 residents in each intern class, nine of whom are Air Force officers and nine of whom are Army officers. Following graduation from residency, I will receive an assignment as an emergency medicine physician at a military healthcare facility or as part of an operational Army unit.