Military Physicians:

DOD's Medical School and Scholarship Program

HEHS-95-244: Published: Sep 29, 1995. Publicly Released: Sep 29, 1995.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) and Health Profession Scholarship Program (HPSP), focusing on: (1) the cost of obtaining military physicians from all sources; (2) the quality of medical education provided by the University; (3) how physicians are trained to meet military medical needs; and (4) retention rate patterns among USUHS and HPSP.

GAO found that: (1) by most measures, USUHS is the most expensive source of military physicians; (2) HPSP provides the majority of military physicians; (3) when all federal costs are considered, USUHS nearly equals the cost of the regular scholarship program and is less costly than the deferred scholarship program; (4) USUHS graduates are expected to have longer military careers, and USUHS receives less non-DOD federal support than civilian medical schools and graduate training programs; (5) the quality of USUHS medical education compares well with that of all medical schools and its graduates' abilities are at or above those of other military physicians; (6) although USUHS graduates appear to be better trained in military medicine than their civilian peers, the significance of their additional readiness training is unclear; (7) if USUHS is closed, USUHS officials believe that DOD would need to continue funding other USUHS services, such as academic affiliation for several military graduate medical education programs, training and education for other health care and related professions, and research, consultation, and archival activities; (8) on average, USUHS graduates, particularly those in critical military medical specialties, tend to remain longer in the services than civilian-educated physicians; and (9) because its changing physician needs are not known, DOD needs to assess whether alternative strategies for obtaining certain experienced, long-term physicians at less cost are available.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congressional action is not expected, as nothing was done in the FY 1996 Defense Authorization or Appropriation Acts or accompanying reports.

    Matter: As Congress makes policy decisions regarding the need for a cadre of physicians who are likely to become career military officers and the most appropriate means of retaining those physicians, it may wish to consider requiring DOD to justify both USUHS and HPSP in the context of specific DOD short- and long-term requirements for military physicians, the role of USUHS and HPSP in satisfying those requirements, and their relative costs.


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