Monday, October 8, 2012

Going the military route: HPSP

One of you asked me about the HPSP program which I know nothing about. But some of my favorite people here at University of Pennsylvania are part of the HPSP program, so I asked them about going the HPSP route for dental school.

Health Professions Scholarship Program, or HPSP for short, provides healthcare students with a scholarship with a year of service for each year paid by the military. Upon entering the program, scholarship recipients become officers in their respective branch of the military.

The scholarship includes the entire cost of tuition, all required fees to the dental school (key word being “required”) plus a monthly stipend to cover the cost of living. The HPSP scholars are chosen each year based on the medical needs of the military, meaning that the number of scholarship recipients will vary year to year.

Links for HPSP:
Army // Navy // Air Force 

On a rainy afternoon I met with (from left to right) Evan from Methuem, MA, Jane from Jacksonville, FL and Sharon from Madison, AL. Sharon actually went to the Air Force Academy in rocky Colorado- so she chose an untraditional route to have her dental education paid for by the military.

Jane made some homemade Korean food for Sharon and herself while Evan munched on a three-foot-long sandwich… And thankfully they all have different initials.

2012-10-02 12.41.50

Yesle: First to start off, why did you guys choose to do HPSP?

Evan: It was a difficult decision, but in the end it made financial sense.

Jane: There’s also job security- the program takes care of the application process out after you graduate.

What do you mean?

Sharon: You still have to apply for a job when you graduate. You don’t just go out and BAM, have a job to start after you graduate. You have to apply.

Oh, that makes sense. I never thought about it that way!

E: Although you make less than what you would make in civilian private practice, if you are getting a loan for dental school, HPSP works out to be better financially- at least in short term it was for me. Counting all the extra living stipends, you make about 80-90k/year working as a military dentist. You are getting paid less than in private practice but remember you have no loans!!!

So what happens if you want to specialize?

E: Military does have specialization programs! But it changes year to year, depending on how many chairs they have and how many they need. Their dental needs are very specific-

J: For example, there is no pediatric dentistry.

E: I know the army encourages you to do an AEGD after you graduate.
(AEGD is short for Advanced Education in General Dentistry, usually a 1-or 2-year residency to facilitate practice of general dentistry. It is not a specialization program, but it is a residency.)

S: I think every branch does. The air force does- for sure.

E: I know that in the Army, HPSP students are required to apply for it, although you can decline once you get in.

Okay- Evan and Jane, how did you choose the navy?

J: I missed the Air Force deadline- just kidding. The Navy had more spots than the Air Force this year.

E: I think there was 14 spots for the Air Force for the 4-year program, compared to the Navy’s about 40-60 this year. Also, the navy (and the army) had a $20,000 signing bonus. I chose the Navy over the Army because I’ve heard that in the Army you can be sometimes placed under a regular officer instead of a dentist. Plus since the Navy has bases in cool places, I thought it would be fun to be at a place like Guam. Even if I had to spend 6-8 months on a ship, on a carrier kind of thing, I’d have fun. I’m excited.

J: Also, I know it made financial sense and that played a big portion in making the decision, but I also saw it as a minimal way of giving back to the country. I was never going to enlist but if I was contributing to the country while making a decision that just made financial sense… so I went for it.

E: For me, I know wanted a professional career in healthcare, not in the military. But I’m actually looking forward to service! I get to cruise around and be with a bunch of bros.

Meanwhile Sharon’s been busy eating up the Korean food Jane made for her.

J: Sharon, why did you join the academy?

S: I wanted to fly, become an officer of character. That’s straight from their mission statement by the way. More so, I visited the Air Force Academy in Colorado and I loved it. I didn’t know if I wanted to be a dentist when I went to the academy. I actually decided my sophomore year.

So theoretically if I were to apply for the HPSP… would I need to get in shape first? What about health?

E: If Jane can do it, I think you can do it. (Thanks Evan.) Let’s see, you can’t have AIDS.

Really?

E: Yeah, they are pretty thorough about your medical history. If you’ve had a mole removed for example, you need to have the paperwork for it. It’s actually a lot of paperwork.

S: Yeah, think about how much money they are paying for your dental school.

E: But you’re an officer once you take the oath. So you’re treated with a lot of respect.

J: Anatomy grades are up! Oh and you don’t need to take a fitness test… yet. That comes afterwards.

Tell me about basic training- what is this 6-week Officer Basic Course (OBC) camp I’m hearing about?

E: Basically it’s orientation to the military culture and stuff with a little Physical Training. You need to do it when you have six consecutive weeks off- so I’ll do it probably this summer when Penn gives us two months off.

J: Most people do it after their first year. But you can do it after dental school. Evan, did you submit your paperwork already?

E: Yeah I need to do that….

S: You learn how to march!

J: I was in a marching band in high school!

What about other commitments throughout the year?

E: 45 days of ODS, short for Officer Development School. Later you can also do an externship where you’re assigned to a hospital to shadow a dentist. Both of these are not required- you can get school orders. You still get paid for 45 days of active duty which is really nice.

What about your stipends? How much do you get a month? Is that enough?

E: We get $2122 a month. It is same across the different branches except that the Air Force does not have a signing bonus.

Is that enough for Philadelphia?

J: Yeah, I’m living comfortably.

S: Because you guys are splitsies. You can’t be totally irresponsible and live in a luxurious apartment by yourself. (Sharon lives in the cutest apartment on restaurant row.)

E: Where do you live?

And we talk about thingsssss. Like apartments! And food! And our anatomy grades. You need to go through a recruiter, right?

E: Yes, you have one recruiter who is responsible for you. Recruiters are regulars officers who also have this responsibility of “recruiting” students for the HPSP program. My recruiter was actually a pilot in the Navy.

There’s pilots in the navy? Oh, like Pearl Harbor and those slingy airplane stops.

S: Um, yes.

E: What else is on your blog? Can we read it?

J: We need to go to class! I need to get dressed.

And that concludes the end of our interview. Here’s a picture of two of my interviewee’s. Guess which ones.

2012-10-02 12.42.14

Thanks Evan-Jane-Sharon for taking the time to chat with me. You can get the scholarship while in school. But they don’t pay for tuition/expenses retrospectively.

Also another point about HPSP: you don’t need an acceptance to start applying. And nothing is set in stone until you take the oath. So if you are even remotely interested in applying (and not worrying about loans for the next 30 years), talk to your recruiter today.

22 comments:

  1. This was an awesome article! thanks for writing such informative stuff

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I interviewed some awesome people! :)

      Delete
  2. Yesle, I stumbled across your blog while searching for something else. I'm a 4th year dental student at Oklahoma and I'm on the 4-year HPSP scholarship.

    If anyone is interested in the HPSP scholarship, head over to my blog for first hand information!(usafdds.blogspot.com)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Matthew, our blog is wonderful. You have tons of insightful information on life as a HPSP scholar- I love that. Best of luck in your last year of dental school!

      Delete
  3. Interesting. I was searching on behalf of my daughter that has just been selected for the Air Force HPSP. I'm very proud of her since her mother and I served 22 years. I have to comment one of the answers about specialists. The AF has all specialties, including pediatric dentistry. There is usually only one slot a year for obvious reasons and it's pretty completive to get. There are the normal specialties; endo, perio, pros, oral surg, ortho, and advanced GD. Ortho is probably the hardest to get accepted to; it's a tri-service program and a lot of applicants since it's so lucrative in the civilian world. Evan and Jane, there's a reason the Navy and Army have so many openings and offer bonuses...just saying.

    ReplyDelete
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