The Coast Guard will begin training its own physicians to help fill vacancies in medical staff amidst a nationwide shortage of health care professionals.
The service is expanding two programs that would sponsor Coast Guard members through medical school at the Uniformed Services University of Health Services School of Medicine (USUHS SOM):
- USUHS SOM is a Graduate Medical Degree program that would see selected active duty and reserve officers (O-1 to O-3), chief warrant officers, or enlisted members (E-4 to E-7) complete a four-year medical degree in residence at USUHS SOM.
- EMDP2 , the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program, would put selected active duty and reserve enlisted members (E-4 to E-7) through a two-year premed program at George Mason University, preparation and taking of the MCAT, application to the USUHS SOM and completion of a four-year medical degree there if accepted.
The Coast Guard currently has two commissioned officers attending USUHS as medical students. The plan is to have four Coast Guard members begin medical school training and one Coast Guard enlisted member begin premed training in the 2023 academic year.
Selection is a two-step process: 1. Applying to a Coast Guard selection panel (which will include an interview), 2. Applying to USUHS or EMPD2. You can find application packages and other required information on the USUHS admissions page. Email your completed application materials as one PDF package, to Capt. Shane Steiner no later than Oct. 12. More details and requirements are in the Solicitation for 2023 Physician Training Applications ALCOAST 354-22.
The physician training program is part of a wider effort by the Coast Guard to meet its need for health service officers – particularly, doctors and dentists – as supply tightens and seasoned practitioners separate from the service. In the Commandant’s Intent, Adm. Linda Fagan directed the enterprise to establish new ways of accessing, training, and developing active duty medical doctors and dentists. On Aug. 5, the Coast Guard began direct commissioning of health service officers.
Previously, the Coast Guard had relied solely on Public Health Service (PHS) Officers to fill medical, dental, and other healthcare positions. A nationwide doctor shortage, exacerbated by the pandemic, has made it necessary for the service to look for additional ways to meet its healthcare needs.
“The goal is to have a sustainable model for filling positions,” said Rear Adm. Dana Thomas, Director of Health, Safety and Work-Life at CG-11. “The U.S. was in a bad situation regarding primary care access before the pandemic. We have experienced a ‘graying’ of medicine nationally – many older providers, not enough younger docs to replace them. Post COVID-19, the situation has worsened. Looking at our Coast Guard physicians, 75% can or will be retired in the next five years.”
The Coast Guard is also looking into getting authority to create a Coast Guard Health Service Officer Corps (HSOC) through a Legislative Change Proposal (LCP). This would allow the Coast Guard to manage the careers of Coast Guard Health Services Officers similar to how they are managed in the other Armed Forces such as separate promotion lists that do not count against Coast Guard active or reserve controlled-grade promotion strength or opportunity.
“This is a life or death situation,” Thomas said. “Having the doctors we need determines whether our people are safe to fly, safe to be on a cutter, safe to do any mission. It also determines whether they can do those missions knowing their families are taken care of. In the future the Coast Guard may also need to provide care to our family members in remote locations.”
- Solicitation for 2023 Physician Training Applications ALCOAST 354/22
- Approval of the Direct commission Health Service Officer Program. ALCOAST 010/22