Dozens of medical students from the Uniformed Services University's F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine class of 2020 will be graduating early to join the ranks of the military health system.

Dozens of medical students from the Uniformed Services University's F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine class of 2020 will be graduating early to join the ranks of the military health system. (Sharon Holland/DOD)

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More than 200 military doctors and nurses will be allowed to graduate early in an effort to get more medical staff to the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences announced Thursday.

Following the federal emergency declaration to combat the fast-spreading virus, the decision was made to move up the graduation date for most students by six weeks to April 1.

“Our curriculum has a specific focus on threats like emerging infectious diseases and disasters that our military and Public Health Service forces are likely to encounter in the course of their careers,” said Dr. Richard Thomas, president of the university, which is based in Bethesda, Md. “This instruction is based on real-life lessons learned, is woven throughout the curriculum and incorporated into our medical field exercises. Our students are uniquely prepared to meet and address the readiness needs of the Department of Defense and our nation the moment they step out of our doors.”

The students, who are all active-duty uniformed officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Public Health Service, will have completed all of their requirements to be awarded a degree and will be available for reassignment by their respective services, according to an university news release. They include physicians, family, mental health and women’s health nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and certified registered nurse anesthetists.

“This is exactly what they were educated and trained to do. The surgeon generals of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Public Health Service will receive a competent cadre of health care professionals who can augment current resources available to them,” Thomas said.

Dr. Arthur Kellermann, dean of the F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine at the university, said the future medical doctors of the program are now taking final electives that aren’t essential to degree requirements.

Dr. Carol Romano, dean of the Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing at the university, said nursing students are working in close collaboration with program directors and faculty mentors to complete all their academic requirements and meet the accelerated graduation date. Students studying for a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree must complete and disseminate a project, she said.

“All the projects had been completed and students were in the process of polishing their final project summary document and preparing posters and podium presentations,” Romano said. “The faculty elected to waive our internal requirement for poster and presentations and accept the final document as the only dissemination deliverable.”

Students studying to become a registered nurse with a focus on anesthesia were restricted by their professional accrediting body from graduating in April, but they will still graduate nearly three weeks early on May 1, Romano said.

The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences is the nation's only federal health sciences university. It educates, trains and prepares uniformed services health professionals, officers and leaders to directly support the Military Health System.

The nursing and medical school combined have more than 800 students, according to the university website. Twitter: @Rose_Lori

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Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.

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