PhiDE at Walter Reed!

Thirty-four cadets, as members of the international medical fraternity, Phi Delta Epsilon, visited Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) 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 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 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, just to name a few. CDT Michael Tobin, class of 2015, remarked that it was very rewarding to “[spend] time with the smartest minds in medicine as they work to improve the quality of life of the most deserving people on the planet.” After two long days of living the life of an Army doctor at Walter Reed, the group got a chance to have any remaining questions answered by a panel of physicians of various specialties.

After their experience at WRNMMC, the cadets took a tour of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS).  With a focus on military medicine and trauma care, USUHS presents a unique and invaluable medical education for future 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. 

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 simulated examination rooms, where medical students practice taking patient histories whilst being observed by peers and raters.  The cadets were also fortunate enough to be the first official group to experience a brand-new virtual reality simulator, where medical students will soon be practicing caring for a patient in a combat environment.  A $7 million project, the simulator consists of two rooms with floor-to-ceiling projector panels, as well as smoke machines, speakers, heat lamps, and other additions designed to make the simulator more convincing to all the senses, including smell. While wearing 3D glasses, the cadets were taken aback at the realism of the simulation, as they were ‘flown’ via helicopter to a virtual field hospital to tend to a wounded ‘patient.’

Finally, the cadets were graciously hosted by the commander of Keller Hospital, Colonel Pehrson, for a barbeque dinner. Before leaving for West Point, each cadet shared their most memorable experience of the trip. Whether it was shadowing a certain specialty, touring USUHS, or experiencing the simulation center, the impact of the trip on the cadets was overwhelmingly positive.  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 that 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.

Photos and Article By: CDT Michael Gotschall, class of 2014