UCF medical student Megan Vu still remembers her family’s stories of escaping South Vietnam in 1975 during the fall of Saigon. The gunfire, the smoke, the panic – and the joy in having a spot on a U.S. Navy ship that would take them to freedom. “I wouldn’t be here without the actions of those soldiers,” Vu said. “A huge part of me wants to give back to the country that gave me everything.”
Now about to graduate from medical school, Vu is paying that gift back. She is a Navy ensign who will do her general surgery residency at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, which serves more than 100,000 active and retired military personnel a year.
Vu is one of seven College of Medicine 2015 graduates who matched into military residencies recently. This year is the first time students of the new medical school have been chosen and selected to do their graduate medical education training caring for the nation’s military. All are participants in the military’s Health Professions Scholarships program, which provides full tuition and living expenses for M.D. students who agree to serve their country for one year for each year of scholarship.
Five students in the Class of 2015 – UCF’s third medical school graduating class – are Naval officers who will do their residencies in Naval hospitals. One is in the Air Force, one in the Army. Another is an Air Force officer who has decided to do a civilian match. He will serve his country after completing his residency. The only other UCF College of Medical Student to enter the scholarship program was Air Force Captain and now M.D. Casey deDeugd, who graduated in 2014 and is doing her orthopedic surgical residency at the Mayo Clinic before serving her country.
Military match is typically held several months before National Match Day, where thousands of medical students nationwide learn where they will do their residency training. The match is similar to an online dating service. Medical students select their preferred residency program; residency programs at universities and hospitals list their top picks. A centralized computer spends weeks sorting and coming up with the best “match.” This year’s National Match Day is March 20.
UCF’s military officers matched into specialties including general surgery, emergency medicine, anesthesiology and psychiatry and will train at military hospitals across the country including Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington D.C.
“I couldn’t be happier for them as they celebrate their match results,” said College of Medicine Dean of Students Dr. Marcy Verduin. “I know they will do great things across the country and will represent UCF College of Medicine well. I can’t wait to see all that they accomplish in their careers.”
Each student had their own reasons for joining the military. For Vu, inspiration came from the military’s role in helping her family escape Communist rule. Her grandfather was an American-trained fighter pilot in the South Vietnamese Air Force. He had fought alongside the U.S. and was sure to be executed if he remained in his homeland. “It was a very intense time,” she recalled. “Everything that they’d worked for was being taken away. They were forced to leave their country,” The U.S. Navy ship took them first to the Philippines. From there, they made their way to America, living in several cities as refugees before settling in Florida, where her grandmother ultimately became a surgical recovery nurse. Vu's parents, who were both born in Vietnam, are also in the medical field. Her mother is a dentist and her father is a pediatric anesthesiologist.
“It’s amazing that my dream of being a doctor can go perfectly with the sense of patriotism that I have for our country,” Vu said of her decision to enlist and go through military match.
At the Naval hospital located in Southern California, Vu will join three of her classmates, all ensigns -- Colton Bush, John LoVoi and Anastasia Kostrubala. Bush plans to train as a General Medical Officer or GMO, who are typically sent on tours of duty to care for active troops. Both of Bush’s grandfathers served in the military. “What better patients to care for than those brave men and women that are putting their lives on the line to protect our freedoms,” he said. Once finished with his GMO service, Bush plans train in Radiology because “facing and overcoming diagnostic challenges has been one of my greatest joys in medical school.”
On the east coast, Ensign Andrew Syski will head to Washington D.C.’s Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to become an otolaryngologist — an ear, nose and throat specialist. “I really feel lucky to be in Navy medicine,” said the husband and father of four. “I'm excited for the unique military medical and extra-medical training I will receive, and the diverse opportunities a career in the Navy will present.”
Army Second Lieutenant Erin Caddell will study general surgery at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Georgia. She expressed her pride in the Class of 2015, which is sending the largest contingent in school history to serve the Armed Forces. “I look forward to serving with them in the future as we have the honor of caring for America’s men and women in uniform, our heroes,” she said.
|ENS Colton Bush||Naval Medical Center San Diego- Transitional Year (with plans to do Radiology)|
|ENS John LoVoi||Naval Medical Center San Diego – Transitional Year (with plans to do Emergency Med)|
|ENS Anastasia Kostrubala||Naval Medical Center San Diego - Psychiatry|
|ENS Megan Vu||Naval Medical Center San Diego – General Surgery|
|ENS Andrew Syski||Walter Reed National Military Medical Center- Otolaryngology|
|2nd Lt Dan Sehrt||Deferred to civilian match for Anesthesiology|
|2nd Lt Lynda Yu||San Antonio Military Medical Center- Internal Med Prelim Yr (with Emergency Med plans)|
|2LT Erin Caddell||Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center- General Surgery|