Top 10 Specialties in the Army Medical Corps

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Army surgeons are in demand. Here, a brigade surgeon participates in a training exercise in 2009.

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army

Top 10 Specialties in the Army Medical Corps

Those in the medical profession have a great deal of freedom to choose where they practice. Employment of physicians and surgeons is projected to grow 22 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all other occupations [source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics]. Specialists in particular are in demand, and of all the choices available, some choose to practice in the U.S. Army Medical Corps.

There are many good reasons for this choice. The Army Medical Corps offers great benefits to those in more than 50 different medical specialties, has a huge variety of job locations, offers career advancement and promotions, and gives medical professionals the opportunity to serve the country and support those serving on our behalf. And if you're ready for graduate-level studies, the U.S. Army Health Care Team may pay 100 percent of your tuition for any accredited medical, dental, veterinary, psychology or optometry program in the U.S. or Puerto Rico.

So what specialties are needed in the Army Medical Corps? Here, we'll take a look at 10 types of medical specialties that let people match their love of medicine with their love of country.

10: Diagnostic Physician

Diagnostics is among the current hot jobs in the Army Medical Corps, and it includes different types of radiologists, or physicians who have specialized training in obtaining and interpreting medical images.

The diagnostic radiologist is trained in interpreting images using X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, MRIs and dye testing in search of injuries, for example.

On the other hand, a nuclear medicine officer works with radioactive materials, called radiopharmaceuticals. Those materials are introduced to the body, then this radiologist uses cameras and computers to detect and map the radioactive drug in a patient's body to create diagnostic images.

Nuclear diagnostics is used for examining organs and regions within organs that can't be seen using common diagnostics, such as X-rays. Nuclear diagnostics can be used for checking for injuries, but it's especially useful for finding tumors and other abnormalities.

A radiology specialist demonstrates new equipment at the Schweinfurt Health Clinic.

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army

9: Therapeutic Radiologist

A therapeutic radiologist, also called an interventional radiologist, treats malignant disease, such as cancer, with radiation. This sort of radiation is used to both control and alleviate symptoms of the disease. While cancer is the most widely known use for therapeutic radiology, this specialist also helps stop abnormal bleeding, detects and treats blockages, treats aneurysms and can remove urinary stones.

Other procedures performed by a therapeutic radiologist include inserting feeding tubes and catheters, using ultrasound technology to look inside blood vessels, performing needle biopsies, placing stents and more.

As with practically all specialties, the Army says that when you become a therapeutic radiologist on the U.S. Army Health Care Team, you can join a ready-made practice with no overhead costs or malpractice insurance premiums.

8: Emergency Medicine Physician

The emergency medicine physician is what we may recognize from television as the emergency room (ER) doctor. This physician diagnoses and treats acute illnesses or injuries that require immediate medical attention. This sometimes involves resuscitating patients and ensuring they're stabilized, then pairing them with the appropriate specialist who can treat their condition long term.

While emergency medicine may be a specialty, the ER doctor needs to be a generalist, since a wide variety of conditions, from accident and assault-inflicted injuries to undiagnosed illnesses and diseases, will present at the emergency room.

Emergency medicine physicians usually have credentials as primary care physicians, and they can be trained in other specialties, as well.

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7: Internal Medicine Physician

Despite its name, internal medicine isn't just about treating internal organs: Doctors who specialize in internal medicine, also called internists, are actually specially trained to prevent and treat diseases and ailments that affect adults.

These specialists are valuable to the Army Medical Corps because they know what to look for based on a soldier's age. Their combination of general practitioner/family practice training and internal medicine specialty helps them understand what to expect at certain age brackets, which may help distinguish injury from disease, for example.

The internal medicine physician has a challenging job. On his Web site, Dr. Robert M. Centor writes, "Internal medicine deals with the most complex patients and most complex situations. Internists handle complex comprehensive care … Internal medicine is rarely 'run-of-the-mill'" [source: Centor].

6: Otolaryngologist

Otolaryngologists, more commonly known as ear, nose and throat specialists, diagnose and treat those areas of the body, as well as ailments of the head and neck.

For soldiers, the sense of hearing is extremely important, but nose and throat stressors, such as allergies, can affect well-being, too. Often referred to as ENT physicians, otolaryngologists treat the ears for infections, balance disorders, tinnitus, hearing loss and more. They also treat the nose for allergies, injuries or conditions affecting the nasal cavities and sinuses, sinusitis, problems with sense of smell, polyps and nasal obstructions (such as deviated septum). They may also perform nose surgery, or rhinoplasty.

The ENT treats the throat and surrounding areas for speech and upper digestive disorders, and works with head and neck malignancies, injuries, infections and deformities.

An Army speech language pathologist works with a staff sergeant at the Traumatic Brain Injury and Neuro Rehab Center.

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A neurologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders. This specialist is trained on the central, peripheral and autonomic nervous systems, including their coverings, blood vessels, associated muscles and any other related tissue.

The neurologist may work with spinal cord injuries and nerve damage. Some services relevant to the Army Medical Corps treatment of soldiers might include examining nerves, muscle strength and movement, balance and reflexes. In addition, this specialist will diagnose and treat problems of sensation, memory, speech, language and other cognitive disorders.

This specialist may also participate in the treatment of patients with degenerative nerve diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's, Parkinson's and more.

Ready to scrub in for the Army? Several types of surgeons are listed among the available specialties at the Army Medical Corps, including general surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, thoracic surgeons and peripheral vascular surgeons.

The general surgeon must be quite well-rounded, with training in just about everything from anatomy and immunology to pathology and emergency care. They're experts in diagnostics, and they must care for a patient through pre-op and during the operation, and they deliver postoperative care, as well.

Orthopedics, another specialty listed by the Army Medical Corps, is the branch of surgery concerned with the musculoskeletal system. That includes the bones and muscles, so orthopedic surgeons may diagnose and treat people with arthritis, breaks or fractures, dislocations, club feet and bow legs. They also work with the ligaments and tendons.

The thoracic surgeon can operate on anything in the thorax, including the heart, lungs and esophagus, and the peripheral vascular surgeon specializes in the circulatory system, treating ailments such as arteriosclerosis, traveling blood clots and pulmonary embolisms.

Members of the Multidisciplinary Prostate Cancer Clinic screen and care for patients undergoing prostate cancer treatment.

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Urologists treat disorders of the kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder and urethra. For both men and women, the urologist will diagnose and participate in treatment of cancers as they affect those parts of the body, and he'll treat urinary stones, injuries and infections.

The urologist is also the specialist who will diagnose problems with male reproductive organs. Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. Approximately one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, and one in 36 will die from this disease [source: American Cancer Society]. With these rates, it's easy to understand why this specialty is needed in the Army Medical Corps.

The anesthesiologist is trained in administering drugs or other agents that cause insensitivity to pain. Most people recognize anesthesiologists as the ones who give a patient the appropriate levels and type of anesthesia, before and during surgery, to keep them sedated throughout the procedure. They also monitor vital signs -- heart rate, blood pressure, breathing patterns and body temperature -- during the operation.

Anesthesiologists administer local, regional and general anesthesia. Local is typically delivered via injection and numbs a specific, or local, area. Regional anesthesia (also known as nerve blocks or peripheral nerve block) eliminates pain to a larger part of the body during and after surgery. Regional offers faster recovery and has fewer side effects than general. General anesthesia usually involves a gas delivered through a mask or breathing tube, sometimes in combination with an intravenous drug, and it causes the patient to "sleep" during the surgery.

Outside of the surgical setting, anesthesiologists also offer relief for patients with chronic pain.

An Army OB/GYN instructs medics on delivering babies and emergencies that may arise during pregnancy.

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There are many more specialties currently needed with the Army Medical Corps. Some are preventive, such as a preventive medicine officer. These professionals manage programs to maintain health, improve physical fitness and, as the name indicates, seek to prevent disease and injury.

Likewise, the occupational medicine officer works to prevent (and treat) injuries based on specific routines and tasks of particular occupations. They will help alleviate and prevent problems caused by repetitive movement, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Pathologists, also in demand, study disease: the nature, causes and effects on changes in organs, tissues and cells. The pulmonary disease officer specializes in diagnosis and treatment of conditions and diseases that affect the lungs. COPD, chronic bronchitis and asthma are just a few of the conditions this specialist might treat.

Dermatologists, obstetrician/gynecologists and psychiatrists are also in demand, as is the family practice physician -- Army Medical Corps doctors treat families of soldiers, too.

To learn more about medicine in the Army, check out the links on the next page.

Related ArticlesSources
  • American Cancer Society. "What are the key statistics about prostate cancer?" Nov. 11, 2010. (April 2, 2011) http://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/detailedguide/prostate-cancer-key-statistics
  • Army Civilian Service. "Medical Careers." (April 3, 2011) http://www.armycivilianservice.com/content/medical-careers
  • Centor, Dr. Robert M. "Why become an internist?" Db's Medical Rants. June 26, 2006. (April 2, 2011) http://www.medrants.com/archives/2849
  • U.S. Army. "Army Health Care: Health Professions Scholarship (HPSP)." (April 2, 2011) http://www.goarmy.com/amedd/education/hpsp.html
  • U.S. Army. "Careers & Jobs." (March 28, 2011) http://www.goarmy.com/careers-and-jobs/browse-career-and-job-categories/medical-and-emergency/medical-corps-officer.html
  • U.S. Army. "Medical Corps: Corps Careers & Jobs." (March 31, 2011) http://www.goarmy.com/amedd/army-health-care-corps/medical-corps/careers-and-jobs.html
  • U.S. Army Civilian Personnel On-Line. "Supporting the Overseas Contingency Operations." (March 31, 2011) http://acpol.army.mil/employment/oco.htm
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition." U.S. Department of Labor. Dec. 17, 2009. (April 8, 2011)http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos074.htm