My military residency: family medicine at Womack Army Medical Center

Students who have committed to the nation’s military through the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), which provides tuition support for medical school in exchange for military service, go through a residency match process that culminates in December, three months prior to the civilian residency match. In December 2021, fourth-year students in DMU’s osteopathic medicine program and the HPSP landed a variety of residencies from coast to coast, all in service to our nation. This blog post features Sean Rogers, who will experience a family medicine residency at Womack Army Medical Center.

Sean Rogers says he gained an “almost romanticized perception” of military service from his grandfathers, both of whom served in the Army during World War II. His own reasons for enlisting at age 17 were more practical.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in high school, so joining the military seemed like a good idea – I could get training and be paid for it,” he says.

Now a fourth-year student in DMU’s osteopathic medicine program, Sean began his service as an Army medic. After two years he completed the military’s licensed practical nurse program and served for two more years. He then joined the Reserves while working full-time in a Waterloo, IA, emergency room and becoming a registered nurse at Hawkeye Community College. That’s when he decided to go to medical school, so he enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology with a chemistry minor.

“I have a very supportive wife, Jacie,” he says.

Sean chose DMU because he wanted to become a doctor of osteopathic medicine.

“I worked with a lot of D.O.s in the emergency room, observed OMM [osteopathic manual medicine] and saw people get a lot of relief from that,” he says.

As a DMU student, he experienced audition rotations at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, NC, and Martin Army Community Hospital at Fort Benning, GA. When he decided upon family medicine as his specialty, he considered the Army’s seven family medicine residency programs and chose Womack as his top choice. He’ll begin his residency there this summer.

“I knew I wanted to do primary care in a more rural track. That can offer more independence and chances to get involved in procedures. Counter to that, a rural setting might have fewer specialists and perform fewer procedures, so less opportunity,” he says. “Womack provided a great happy medium. It has a huge patient population, and its retiree program is also huge.”

Sean’s health care experiences as a nurse and in medical school have enhanced his communication skills and trust in his own physical exam skills while honing his intent to avoid the “trap” of “thinking I know everything,” he says.

“I always want to take a step back and get that differential diagnosis. DMU has taught me that,” he says.

He says when he first began medical school, he thought he’d become an emergency medical physician. “By far the last place you’d find me is in the clinic,” he notes. His perspective changed in part because of conversations with Paul Volker, M.D., FAAFP, assistant professor of osteopathic clinical medicine who had practice many years as a family medicine provider in rural Iowa.

“At the end of the day, family medicine provides me with all the things I want to do, while giving me the diversity in cases that I crave,” Sean says.  

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