Introduction: Military physicians receive their undergraduate medical training primarily by either attending civilian medical school, through the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), or by attending the Uniformed Services University (USU), a federal medical school with a military unique curriculum. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of graduates from these two educational pathways regarding the impact of their medical school training on their readiness for their first deployment. Materials and Methods: We conducted 18 semi-structured interviews with military physicians who attended civilian medical schools and USU and who had deployed within the past 2 years. The participants also completed emailed follow-up questions. The interviews were recorded and transcribed. The research team coded the interviews, extracted meaning units, and identified themes that emerged from the data. Results: The following themes emerged from the data: (1) medical readiness; (2) operational readiness; (3) command interactions; and (4) role as a military physician. All of the participants perceived themselves to be prepared medically. However, the USU graduates were more confident in their ability to navigate the operational aspects of deployment. In addition, they described their ability to naturally build positive working relationships with their commanding officers and navigate their combined roles as both a physician and military officer. Conclusions: These perceptions of both the civilian medical graduates and USU graduates provide important insight to the military medical education community regarding the ways in which civilian medical schools and USU prepare students for their first deployment. This insight will help to identify any training gaps that should be filled in order to ensure that military physicians are ready for deployment.
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