A Comparison of Uniformed Services University and Health Professions Scholarship Program Graduates’ First Deployment Readiness

Rebekah Cole, Ting Dong, Sherri L. Rudinsky, Laura Tilley, Col Brian V. Reamy, Steven J. Durning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Military physicians must be prepared to lead health care teams across complex landscapes of war during future small- and large-scale combat operations. This preparation optimally begins in medical school so that early career physicians are fully ready for their first deployment. Past qualitative research has suggested that military physicians who attended civilian medical school are not as well prepared for the operational environment as physicians who attended the Uniformed Services University (USU), our nation’s military medical school. However, there is a lack of larger-scale quantitative research comparing the readiness differences between the two medical school pathways. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to quantify any differences in first deployment preparation between students attending USU and civilian medical schools through the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). Materials and Methods: We compared USU and HPSP graduates’ first deployment experiences by distributing a 14-item Likert survey to active duty military physicians in the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force who graduated within the past 10 years from medical school (USU or civilian). Results: The USU graduates rated themselves significantly higher than the HPSP graduates on their readiness for deployment (3.83 vs. 3.24; P < .001); ability to navigate the operational environment (3.59 vs. 2.99; P < .001); confidence in communicating with their commanding officer (3.59 vs. 2.99; P = .002); navigating the combined role as physician and officer (3.33 vs. 2.84; P = .004); leading a health care team (3.94 vs. 3.43; P = .001); preparation by a medical school (3.78 vs. 2.52; P < .001); and overall readiness compared to peers (4.20 vs. 3.49; P < .001). There was no significant difference between the two pathways regarding their stress level at the beginning of deployment (2.74 vs. 2.68; P = .683); clinical preparation (3.94 vs. 3.76; P = .202); and success of first deployment (3.87 vs. 3.91; P = .792). The largest effect size of the difference between the two pathways was noted on the question “How well did medical school prepare you for your first deployment” (Cohen’s d = 1.02). Conclusions: While both groups believed that they were prepared for their first deployment, USU graduates consistently reported being more prepared by medical school for their first deployment than HPSP graduates. To close this readiness gap, supplemental military unique curricula may help to optimize HPSP students’ readiness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1190-e1195
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 1 May 2024
Externally publishedYes


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