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Navy physician speaks to students about medicine and the military

Captain Eric Hofmeister discusses his time as a doctor in the Army and the Navy. (credit: Celia Ludwinski/Operations Manager) Captain Eric Hofmeister discusses his time as a doctor in the Army and the Navy. (credit: Celia Ludwinski/Operations Manager)

Captain Eric Hofmeister, M.D., of the United States Navy, spoke last Wednesday to students enrolled in the Health Professions Program. The lecture centered around Hofmeister’s story as a medical officer in the military.

Hofmeister grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, with no military exposure but an interest in human science. He became associated with the military when he accepted an Army scholarship, which paid for four years of tuition at Marquette University.

In exchange for having his tuition paid, Hofmeister owed the Army four years of service. However, his military service did not end there. He applied to medical school and was accepted; again the Army supplied his tuition and books, and even paid for him to be an officer in the military as he studied to become an orthopedic surgeon.

According to Hofmeister, his medical school ambitions were possible because of the Health Professional Service Program Scholarship.

The scholarship pays for medical school, scrubs, books, and a monthly salary for students to live on. After completing four years of medical school, students owe four years of military service. The program also gives students the chance to do other activities between medical school and residency, such as practice as a flight surgeon or family practitioner with the chance to deploy abroad.

“It gives students the opportunity to build a résumé once they do choose to do their residency,” said Kelleigh Cunningham, a Navy recruiting officer at the lecture. Cunningham believes that the Health Professional Service Program Scholarship is a good choice for many students interested in entering medical school.

Hofmeister, who switched from the Army to the Navy to be closer to his wife, said that he loves being a military doctor because he gets to do what is right for the patient, and he has the opportunity to deploy to different areas of the world.

Not all of the lecture was about military medicine. In one anecdote, Hofmeister shared what he called his “most interesting orthopedic case,” in which he attached four fingers back onto a man’s hand after they were chopped off by a crabber.

Hofmeister also spoke about the medical school experience in general. The first year of medical school, he said, was a huge eye-opener — the volume of work was just mind-boggling.

“A lot of students faint,” Hofmeister said. “It’s very common, and it’s okay.”

After the lecture ended, first-year Mellon College of Science student Dominic Akerele said, “I felt like this was a great opportunity because it gave me insight into what it would be like going into the medical field and strengthened my interest for pursuing medical school.”