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Public Affairs : Cadets explore medical profession at Walter Reed

Cadets explore medical profession at Walter Reed

Story and photo provided by Capt. John Zehnpfenning

WEST POINT, N.Y. (April 11, 2013) — As members of the international pre-medical fraternity, Phi Delta Epsilon, more than 30 cadets visited Walter Reed National Military Medical Center recently to learn more about what it means to be a physician in the Armed Forces.

These cadets represent a small group of the Corps who hope to attend medical school directly after graduation from the academy. While most of the cadets in the program study biology or chemistry, many different academic majors are represented including engineering, social studies and foreign languages.

During the first two days of the trip, the cadets shadowed doctors at Walter Reed, many of whom were West Point graduates. Cadets were assigned to different specialties all throughout the hospital based on their preferences, and they were exposed to a different department on each day of shadowing. Many cadets rushed to the operating rooms to observe various orthopedic or general surgeries, while others chose to spend their time in specialties such as pediatrics, internal medicine or psychiatry.

After two long days of living the life of an Army doctor, the group got a chance to have any remaining questions answered by a panel of physicians of various specialties.

On the following day of the trip, the cadets took a tour of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. With a focus on military medicine and trauma care, USUHS presents a unique and invaluable medical education for potential Army Doctors. The cadets were guided around the grounds of the university by first- and second-year students, some of whom already had illustrious careers in the military and some of whom who had only just graduated from West Point.
Cadets visit Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to learn more about the medical profession in the Armed Forces.

One unique opportunity presented to the cadets on the trip was a visit to the USUHS Simulation Center located just a few short miles from the university.

In the SIM Center, cadets explored practice examination rooms, where medical students practice taking patient histories while under scrutiny from their peers. The cadets also experienced a virtual reality simulator, where medical students practice caring for a patient in a combat environment.

A $7 million project, the simulator consists of two rooms with tall, glass panels as well as smoke machines, speakers, heat lamps and other additions designed to make the simulator more realistic. While wearing 3-D glasses, the cadets were taken aback at the realism of the simulation, as they were “flown” via helicopter to a virtual field hospital to attend to a wounded “patient.” 

For many of the cadets, this trip confirmed the decision to pursue medicine as a career. Others even discovered a hidden passion for certain specialties they had never considered before.

One thing is for sure, the cadets returned to the last half of the spring semester with a renewed vigor and determination to make their medical aspirations a reality.