My military residency: psychiatry at Walter Reed National Military 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 Alexis Cross, who will experience a psychiatry residency at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Alexis Cross was drawn to medicine and specifically psychiatry for the same reason: She wants to establish and maintain positive relationships with the patients she serves. That also drew her to commission as an officer in the U.S. Navy before she began DMU’s osteopathic medicine program.

“The population I will serve is very deserving. I went into medical school to practice psychiatry, and what a population to provide psychiatric services to!” she says. “I won’t have to worry about my patients’ ability to pay. I also really like traveling, and I knew being in the military would give me the opportunity to go places I likely wouldn’t be able to go if I wasn’t in the military.”

Now a fourth-year D.O. student and a Navy ensign, Alexis will begin in June a four-year psychiatry residency at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), the largest medical center in the U.S. Department of Defense. It’s home to the military’s most comprehensive center for graduate medical education, with 75 medical and allied health programs and more than 1,500 faculty training nearly 700 health care providers in all three military services. It’s one of three Navy locations for psychiatry residencies, along with the Naval Medical Centers in Portsmouth, VA, and San Diego.

During her officer training, Alexis Cross marched in the nation’s oldest Fourth of July parade, in Bristol, RI.

“I rotated at Walter Reed and felt at home. It’s where I feel that I can thrive,” she says.

As a DMU student, Alexis considered family medicine and internal medicine as well as psychiatry. She enjoyed an “awesome” psychiatry rotation with an excellent preceptor in Chicago; then the Walter Reed rotation sealed the deal.

“In psychiatry, you really get to know your patients very well, which is what drew me to medicine in the first place,” she says. “You get to know every single aspect of their lives, because you have to in order to be able to treat them effectively. For example, if a patient with schizophrenia needs to have medications prescribed but that person doesn’t have housing, those medications aren’t going to help.

“I want to help people live their lives to the fullest. Psychiatry can do that,” she adds.

During Officer Development School, Alexis and her colleagues practiced fire-fighting.

As a commissioned officer, Alexis participated in the Navy’s five-week Officer Development School in Newport, RI. In addition to meeting its physical demands, she and her peers learned about different aspects of the U.S. Navy including military structure, traditions, customs and etiquette. She keeps in touch with several of the fellow officers she met there.

After her residency, Alexis will “owe” four years of service to the Navy. “I can get assigned to a ship or be deployed – it depends on what you want and what the Navy needs,” she says.

Alexis says she’s “definitely ready” for the next step in her medical journey.

“Am I ready to have someone call me ‘doctor’? I’m not sure,” she says. “As a medical student, you have some say over patients, but I’m looking forward to have that actual say in what happens to my patients.”

Alexis’ ODS class visited Battleship Cove, a maritime museum and war memorial in Fall River, MA.
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