May 22, 2017 - Before the ten students in military service uniforms walked into the Research Building Auditorium for their promotion ceremony on Armed Forces Day, keynote speaker retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Douglas Robb, MD, MPH, MA, had one question for them: “Are you ready?”
This became a recurring theme at the May 20 ceremony, during which Georgetown University School of Medicine students who had received their medical training through the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) took their medical oaths and received promotions. Army and Air Force graduates were promoted to captain and Navy graduates were promoted to lieutenant.
“They told me they were ready,” Robb said at the start of his keynote address. “I want [them] to stand up and let everyone know they’re ready.”
“We’re ready, sir!” the graduates said in unison.
Serving a Special Type of Patient
Before retiring from the Air Force in 2016, Robb served as director of the Defense Health Agency at the Defense Health Headquarters in Falls Church, Va. He spent 20 years of his career practicing aerospace medicine.
“Our patients are special,” he said. “[They] have served our country with distinction and pride. Many of them have given more than you will ever know, bearing the burden of both visible and invisible wounds.”
This concept attracted Air Force Capt. Tatiana Zanganeh, (M‘17), to the field of military medicine. “You get to serve two of the greatest professions that exist,” she said. “To be able to do both and have the potential to be a leader in both is really exciting.”
A Prestigious Program
The School of Medicine’s commitment to military medicine dates back to 1851 and is second only to the Uniformed Services University at producing military physicians.
“One of the best parts about this program is that there’s so many students doing HPSP you’re not alone,” said Navy Lt. Alec Emerling (M‘17). “That interaction with other military personnel allows you to fully appreciate the fact that you are becoming both a physician and a military officer.”
“I was thinking about a few other schools but the fact that Georgetown has such a storied tradition in training some of the best military medical professionals was a huge draw,” said Army Capt. Jack Lally (M‘17).
Memorial Day Inspirations
“We’re about ready to celebrate Memorial Day, and I hope each of you remembers the true meaning of that day of remembrance,” Robb said. “Your goal is to make sure that more of our service members, your fellow brothers and sisters in arms, have the opportunity to be a part of Labor Day festivities than listed on the roll call at a Memorial Day remembrance.”
For Lally, Memorial Day has additional significance. A service at his local parish years ago inspired him to pursue military medicine.
“I went to Mass and there was a beautiful service afterward and I just thought at that point that I wanted to take care of people who fight to take care of us,” Lally said.