My military residency: ophthalmology at Madigan 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 Molly Cunard, who will experience an ophthalmology residency at Madigan Army Medical Center.

As fathers do, Robert Cunard, M.D., a family medicine physician in Missouri Valley, IA, influenced his daughter Molly in many ways; two in particular will help shape her career: A fourth-year student in DMU’s osteopathic medicine program, she chose to pursue medicine after observing her father’s impact on their community – “I want to make a difference like that, too” – and her decision to become a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army.

Molly was sworn in as a U.S. Army officer by Mikayla Hamilton, left, a 2021 DMU graduate who’s in the emergency medicine residency program at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX.

Like her father, Molly was accepted into the Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), which offers prospective military physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, optometrists, psychologists, pharmacists and veterinarians a paid medical education in exchange for service as a commissioned medical department officer. She’s now a second lieutenant.

“I’ve always respected the armed forces, and I wanted to be able to be part of something bigger than myself,” she says. “I like serving my country.”

In December’s military residency match, Molly landed her first choice of an ophthalmology residency at Madigan Army Medical Center, located on Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Lakewood, WA. It’s one of the largest military hospitals on the west coast of the United States and the Army’s second-largest medical treatment facility.

“I feel fortunate. Aspects of ophthalmology are similar to family medicine in that I can work with patients of all ages. I will be able to practice in the clinic and do surgery, and I can provide continuity of care to many patients,” she says. “And I’m pretty excited about going to the Northwest, because I’ve lived in Iowa my entire life.”

The Army has ophthalmology residency programs at three sites; the program at Madigan is the smallest, which appealed to her, especially after she completed a rotation there in July.

Molly Cunard discovered one of the perqs of America’s Northwest – its stunning outdoors.

“I like the intimate learning setting and that I’ll fit in with a family of residents. I’ll have more one-on-one interaction with the attendings,” she says. “I love hiking and the milder winters, and the people are super-nice.”

Molly met first-year residents during her rotation at Madigan Army Hospital, where she’ll do her residency.

After she completes the four-year residency, Molly will “owe” the Army four years of service as an ophthalmologist, “wherever they need me,” in exchange for the medical school tuition the HPSP covered.

“For me, that financial piece has been really big. I don’t have to worry about paying off a medical school loan,” she says. “That’s taken a huge stressor out of the multiple stressors of medical school.”

She also enjoys the camaraderie she has with fellow Army officers, including those she met during the Direct Commissioning Course she completed in June 2019 and her Basic Officers Leadership Course in June 2020.

“It was a bonding experience to go through that training together,” she says. “I’m excited about my future and what it will bring.”

During one of her summer officer courses
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