Enlisted Airmen graduate preparatory program, headed to medical school

  • Published
  • By Prerana Korpe
  • Air Force Surgeon General Public Affairs
Two years ago, a path to medical school was only a distant dream for five enlisted Airmen. On May 11 that dream was achieved, as these Airmen crossed the stage of George Mason University and graduated from the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program, while slated to attend  medical school later this year.

A partnership between the Armed Services and Uniformed Services University, the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program enables enlisted service members to remain on active duty status while enrolled as full-time students in preparation for application to medical school.

The program, known as EMDP2, is two years in length and classes are taught at George Mason University.

The Air Force charter class enrolled in EMDP2 in 2014 and emerged successfully, with all five Airmen securing admission to medical school at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.

On graduation day, with adrenaline pumping and excitement running high, the Airmen congregated backstage to meet with Air Force Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Mark Ediger.

“It’s a very special day for Air Force Medicine and for these Airmen,” said Gen. Ediger. “This program started with this group two years ago. For them it’s really an opportunity to pursue a dream. For us it’s an opportunity to gain some excellent physicians to support the mission. We’re all here to celebrate their accomplishments and [we] look forward to what they’re able to do in medical school.”

As they prepared to enter the arena for commencement, each of the five Airmen received the USAF Surgeon General’s coin from Gen. Ediger.

“It really is like a dream come true,” said Tech. Sgt. Lindsay Slimski. “I never thought that I would be able to become a doctor at an advanced point in my career. I was already nine years in as an air traffic controller. When I put in the application for [EMDP2] I never really thought I would get selected.”

Slimski was not only selected for EMDP2, but delivered a baby girl just one week into the program. Determined to keep up with her coursework and persevere through the program, she missed only a few days of class and did not take maternity leave. “It’s a complete honor to even be a part of something this huge,” she said.

Graduation was a particularly memorable event for Chief Master Sgt. E. Jason Pace, chief, Medical Enlisted Force, Office of the Surgeon General, Headquarters, USAF. Between laughter and smiles, handshakes and hugs, the chief got to witness his mentee, Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Johnson, cross the next milestone on his way to medical school.

“Kenny has relentless enthusiasm and an infectious smile. He may have mentioned me as a mentor, but he truly is a role model of positivity,” said Pace. “That type of person just needs to have the reassurance of top cover from his leadership, and that’s all I felt I’ve ever provided.”

Many Airmen described gaining admission into EMDP2 as winning the golden ticket.

“All of us had wanted to follow a medical career. [However], the opportunity to go to college and get the prerequisites wasn’t materializing for a lot of us. So for this program to package all of that into one thing and to do it in a two-year option has been the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Tech. Sgt. Joe Merfeld, who will be on the road briefing interested enlisted Airmen about EMDP2.

“[All five of us] getting through the program successfully speaks to the way the program was set up for our success as well as the hard work that we put in,” said Staff Sgt. Matt Little.  “It definitely wasn’t easy … but it was made as easy as it could have been through the help of USUHS and GMU.”

“I don’t think there is anything that should hold people back from applying. If it is at all a dream of yours you should at least take a shot,” Little said. “I was working in contracting two years ago and here I am –29 years-old, about to enter medical school. Anything’s possible if you want it and want to work hard enough.”

Chief Master Sgt. Monica Hill, chief, Medical Enlisted Force Development and Air Force liaison to EMDP2, shared the pride she felt watching the Air Force inaugural class graduate. “I am extremely proud of these extraordinary individuals and [the Air Force] for making great strides in diversifying military medicine.”

Pioneers of EMDP2 and trailblazers in their own right, these five Airmen demonstrated the success of tenacity, hard work and the determination to live their dreams.

 

To learn more about EMDP2, visit USUHS EMDP2