The rigors of medical school are legendary – long hours, little sleep, limitless dedication and a taxing amount of brain power. Add to that a desire to serve your country and the discipline of military life and you get a good idea of what it means to be a military medical student at UTMB.

One unique challenge military medical students face is learning how to navigate their way through the daunting maze of both military and medical school requirements.

“Since the military medical residency application is so different from the civilian application process, it is often necessary to sail the waters alone, without the normal support from the school of medicine that is provided for other students,” said Jeffrey Carness, a fourth-year UTMB medical student and an ensign in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Navy Reserve.  

That is where the UTMB chapter of the Military Medical Student Association (MMSA) steps in to help. The MMSA is a nonprofit, educational organization whose goal is to promote unity among military medical students and their respective branches and provide guidance to new members regarding training, residencies and military life.

“To help ensure our members are supported we have binders in place with all the contact information and answers to many questions regarding military rotations and active duty tours,” said MMSA President Tiffany Nelson, second-year medical student and second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. “We provide MMSA members the opportunity to meet with upperclassmen who can offer their advice and experience; we also offer networking opportunities with our retired military faculty advisors and guest speakers.”

The UTMB chapter, whose motto is “To protect those who protect us,” currently has 15 members representing all branches of the military and is anticipating that number to grow considerably this year when membership becomes available to other UTMB schools.

“We have been fortunate enough to have wonderful faculty such as Dr. Russell Snyder and Dr. Cheryl Vaiani, who have been instrumental in helping our society accomplish its goals, as well as helping us grow,” Carness said. “I am excited that this year we are opening up our organization to include students in nursing, the School of Health Professions and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.”

In addition to supporting their members, the MMSA holds several events throughout the year to support others. Last December the group donated much needed items such as toiletries, duffle bags and snacks to the Lanstuhl Hospital Care Project, a non-profit organization that provides comfort and relief items for military members who become sick, injured or wounded while serving in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. 

Upcoming events include a social at LaKing’s Confectionary, a meeting for upperclassmen to pass on knowledge and advice, and commencement in May.