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Graduating Medical Student Headed for Duty with U.S. Navy

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While most fourth-year medical students just recently learned where they will be completing their residencies, Tommy Kelsey has already spent five weeks training for his post-graduation destination – the U.S. Navy.

Kelsey, a member of the Wake Forest School of Medicine Class of 2017, will serve as a lieutenant in the Navy after his graduation in May and will begin his residency in orthopaedic surgery at Naval Medical Center San Diego.

“I’ve always wanted to serve my country in some way,” Kelsey said. “Helping improve the quality of life for military members and their families is my way of serving, and I’m excited and ready for what this next chapter holds.”

Kelsey, 27, a native of Massachusetts who earned his bachelor’s degree at Wake Forest University and a master’s degree at Boston University, applied for the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) the same day he received his acceptance letter to Wake Forest School of Medicine.

The HPSP, which is offered by the Army, Navy and Air Force, offers prospective physicians a paid medical education and a monthly stipend in exchange for service as a commissioned officer in the medical corps.

“As a scholarship program, the HPSP provides financial support during medical school; however, this alone should not be the reason a student decides to join the program,” Kelsey said. “Being in the military requires a lot of personal sacrifice and one must ask themselves, ‘Do I want to serve in the military?’ If the answer is not a clear yes, then this may not be the best program for that individual.”

As a physician in the Navy, Kelsey will attend to service members and their families in a similar fashion as a civilian doctor would. Military physicians are often presented with early leadership roles and opportunities to take part in humanitarian relief efforts stateside and internationally.

Kelsey said he based his decision in selecting the Navy on his interest in the Navy’s universal capabilities in air, land, and sea; the Navy’s participation in global humanitarian efforts; and the location of its bases.

Kelsey is one of three HPSP students in this year’s School of Medicine graduating class. The two others, Kenneth Feehs and Abraham Choi, are also going to serve in the Navy and will be completing their residencies at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, M.D.

“Wake Forest School of Medicine is committed to developing strong leaders and approaching physician education holistically,” said Allston J. Stubbs, M.D., associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “Tommy has been instrumental in several of our research projects and his success relates back to his hard work and dedication. I’m confident he has a bright future ahead of him, and we’re proud to have him representing us in the U.S. Navy.”

After completing his five-year residency in orthopaedic surgery, Kelsey will be assigned to a duty station either stateside or at a Naval medical center overseas. After serving his commitment, he will have the option of staying active in the military or joining civilian life.

Both of Kelsey’s grandfathers served in the military, one in World War II and the other in the Korean War.

“I had the opportunity to follow after my two grandfathers and to restart the tradition of my family serving in our military,” Kelsey said. “Knowing that I’ll have the chance to practice and approach medicine in a different way and to provide medical care for those who have served and sacrificed a lot for our country will hopefully provide great job satisfaction.” 

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