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Lt. Adnybel Rosario-Ortiz has a secret.

She’s likely going to war this summer or fall, and hasn’t had the strength or the nerve to tell her father, said the 26-year-old Navy doctor who graduated with a group Friday from their first year of internship following medical school at the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center.

Rosario-Ortiz and about 75 percent of the other 55 Navy medical graduates likely will head overseas to operating units instead of the normal residency path most new doctors take.

“This is a huge number,” said hospital spokeswoman Corey Schultz. “Normally they go to residencies, or other hospitals as general medical officers, to get a little more on-the-job training. But this class will be going straight to war, so to speak; practicing medicine on the ground in Iraq, in the line of fire, with Marine units.”

They won’t deploy in lieu of completing their residencies; they’re just postponing the typical next step to respond to medical needs of the Navy and Marine Corps. The Marine Corps does not have its own medical staff, and instead embeds Navy doctors, corpsman and nurses in their units.

It’s neither unusual nor problematic that the doctors are deploying to practice medicine in the field before embarking on residencies, said Dr. Emmanuel Cassimatis, former chief of Medical Education for the Army and now associate dean for Clinical Affairs at the School of Medication, Uniform Services University of Health Sciences.

“Historically, there is always a certain percentage who are assigned to service if the field, and the feeling from the services these people are able to practice medicine as general medical officers,” Cassimatis said.

“For all of us, the training we get [in med school] is more than adequate,” said Lt. David You, 26, an internal medicine intern who will be heading to Okinawa first, and doesn’t know yet if he’s bound for a combat zone. “Our internships are unique and very broad-based.”

The internships include rotations in orthopedics, psychology, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology, to name some examples.

“And when we’re out in the fleet, it’s not like we are going to be out there by ourselves,” added Lt. Leander Cannick, 27. “We’ll be able to consult with specialists and have board-certified [doctors] and all those available to us.”

Joining the military medical profession obviously meant the possibility of going to war, said Lt. Jared Bogler, 30. “Most of us joined the military to … serve the country, and there’s a much greater sense of serving when you’re serving with the troops in the field.”

The exposure of practicing medicine in the field can only make them better doctors, said Lt. Farzad Nowrouzzadeh, 29, an internal medicine intern who will be heading to Camp Lejeune, N.C., this summer before shipping out.

None of the doctors have received deployment orders yet, they said, and don’t know when they might be heading to a combat zone.

“This is a very anxious time for anyone, to see young soldiers get wounded and come back to a battalion aid station hurt. But in those times … you rely on training and what has been taught to us here,” Nowrouzzadeh said. “But you’re always anxious and nervous about going to hot zone, a hot theater.”

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