My military residency: emergency medicine at San Antonio 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 Joe Hegedus, who will experience an emergency medicine residency at San Antonio Military Medical Center.

As an undergraduate at Saint John’s University in rural Collegeville, MN, Joe Hegedus wasn’t sure what he wanted to pursue as a career. His work as an emergency medical technician (EMT) and role models he had in family and friends who are pilots, some in the Air Force, put him on a path toward military medicine. The dual roles require one to be ready for any situation, to be able to make critical decisions and to provide care in any setting, including with limited resources.

“Teamwork also is huge in emergency medicine; in the military, everything is teamwork,” he says. “You can’t do your job without others, and you form very close bonds with the people you work with.”

Now a fourth-year student in DMU’s osteopathic medicine program, in December Joe landed his number-one residency choice – emergency medicine at San Antonio Military Medical Center, one of the nation’s oldest and largest emergency medicine residency training programs. He’s also close to earning his pilot’s license.

“I absolutely loved my rotation at San Antonio. The leadership there is amazing,” he says.

Joe’s clinical experiences as an EMT sold him on the specialty. He was not daunted by patients such as a man who’d passed out in the snow after a bar fight, a morbidly obese incontinent woman with dementia and an acutely psychotic schizophrenic individual.

“I was thrown into the fire and thought, ‘I love this – I could do this,’” he says. “It’s never gotten dull.”

Those experiences, his DMU education and the “gap” year prior to medical school during which he worked as a scribe at a trauma center, learning how to interact with different doctors and nurses, all helped him feel “completely ready” for his medical rotations. He chose sites that have taken him from California to Florida.

“A lot of the cities I’ve rotated at I wouldn’t have gone to outside rotation,” he says.

After his three-year residency, Joe will “owe” the Air Force four years of service. He plans to seize an additional opportunity offered by the Air Force not available in civilian medicine – training to serve on critical care air transport teams (CCATT). These highly specialized teams deliver care to critically ill or severely injured U.S. service members while they’re being transported via aircraft to medical facilities. According to the Air Force’s CCATT website, during the Vietnam War, it typically took about a month for wounded troops to reach treatment facilities in the United States. Today, however, the U.S. Air Force’s CCATT capability allows service members to be transported from the point of injury to a stateside hospital in less than three days.

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