By Manveen Puri, HBSc, MD, CCFP, MPA Candidate (Class of 2018)

Manveen is a Medical Officer with the Canadian Armed Forces. He enrolled in the Medical Officer Training Program (MOTP) during his third year of medical school and is currently posted to 2 Field Ambulance in Petawawa, Canada. He is also pursuing a part-time Master of Public Administration degree at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston.

Since antiquity, militaries have required the expertise of physicians and healers to help take care of the wounded. The Medical Officer role exists in most modern militaries in some form, but can vary substantiality from nation to nation. My experience is with the Canadian Armed Forces, which represents a unique environment in which you can practice medicine. As a Medical Officer, you provide medical care for military members at a base in Canada or abroad during wartime or on peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.

Military medicine is quite different from regular family practice. There is a large emphasis on preventative health, occupational medicine, sports medicine, and psychiatry. Depending on operational requirements, many Medical Officers also undergo extra training in Flight and/or Dive medicine. In addition, many military physicians also “moonlight” in the civilian healthcare system, and work at their local Emergency Department. This opportunity to work in the Canadian Forces’ federal system as well as your local provincial system gives you a unique vantage point into many of the challenges facing each system, as well as where opportunities for innovation lie.

As a Canadian pre-medical student interested in this path, you must first secure admission to a Canadian medical school. You must then apply to the Canadian Forces under the Medical Officer Training Program (MOTP). If you are already in the military, you must apply through the Military Medical Training Plan (MMTP). Once accepted, the military will pay for medical school as well as pay you a salary. In return, you incur a 3-5 year return of service obligation. Both entry plans currently require you to complete a residency in Family Medicine. There are minimal military commitments during medical school and residency. Once you are fully trained, you start working full-time with the military. You will be posted to a Canadian Forces base in Canada, which will be your home unit for the next few years. Much of your first year will be spent doing military courses where you will become acquainted with the role of an Officer in general, and then more specifically with the role of a Medical Officer. In other words, you will be a “dual professional.” This is a commitment that cannot be taken lightly, and it is important to determine whether the military as an organization fits your values, beliefs, and lifestyle choices. It is also important to realize that the military is a large organization and that physicians are a small part of a much larger family. Succeeding as a military physician will require you to accept your role with humility and understand that it is not about you. Rather, your role is to support the troops and assist military commanders in executing their operational missions.

In return for this heavy responsibility, military physicians are presented with many unique opportunities to participate in deployments and take part in exercises with Canada’s allies throughout the world. The military also places immense importance on leadership development and invests lots of time and money in its personnel to develop and nurture leadership skills. After 3-5 years of service, you may also have the opportunity to apply for further post-graduate training in select residences such as general surgery, orthopedic surgery, internal medicine, radiology, and psychiatry. In all, a career in the military can be extremely rewarding for the right individual. Like any career, succeeding is part hard work and part luck i.e. “being at the right place at the time.”

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