A Call to Military Service

In the photo (L-R): Hunter Philips, Kathryn Sulkowski and Jack Favorite

Deciding on the type of physician you want to become is a choice that all medical students will make. Many students discover their career paths in medical school, while others know exactly want they want to do before they even apply to medical school. This year, three Rush Medical College graduates – Jack Favorite, Hunter Philips and Kathryn Sulkowski – will become physicians in the military. Prior to coming to Rush, the students decided to join the military and were accepted into the Health Professions Scholarship Program – a program offered by the Army, Air Force and Navy for students interested in pursuing an advanced degree in health care and pursuing active duty service in their chosen field. The program provides students a scholarship for medical school in exchange for service as a commissioned officer in their chosen branch of service after graduation.

Meet our graduating military officers, learn why they chose to pursue medicine in the military and why they think Rush was a great place to help prepare them for military service.

Jack Favorite

Jack Favorite is an ensign in the United States Navy. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a degree in preprofessional studies and anthropology. Favorite will pursue a pediatric residency at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Looking back at the last four years, what have you enjoyed most about being a student at Rush?

Jack Favorite: One of the reasons I came to Rush was the emphasis on service, especially with its location on the on the west side of Chicago. The most meaningful service project I’ve participated in was the medical mobile van team. The medical mobile van is a traveling harm-reduction center that provides a clinic in the back of a van for safe needle exchange and basic services such as wound care or vaccinations like flu shots. Many of the people we see on the van either do not have the resources to see a doctor or just didn’t want to go to one. I started working on the van as an M1 student which was overwhelming at first because I didn’t have very much medical knowledge. I quickly realized how much an impact I could have by just talking to people, asking how they were doing, and forming relationships with them. By my second year, I signed up as a head student organizer for the mobile van.

How do you think being a doctor in the military will be different than being a doctor in the civilian world?

JF: I think any differences will be specialty-specific, but in my case as a pediatrician, I will work with patients whose parents have very specific jobs. One of the challenges of pediatrics is not only treating the patients, but also dealing the psychology and the dynamics of the family. Understanding the structure and the community that is in inherent to the military will play a big part in my daily work.

I don’t know what next year is going to be like, but I am confident that breadth of educational and clinical experiences at Rush, especially caring for people similar and different than me, has prepared me as best as possible for this next step in my journey.

What advice do you have for anyone interested in pursuing medicine in the military?

JF: I didn’t come from a military family and learned about the HPSP program from an advisor at Notre Dame. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to talk to as many people as you can in the field, beyond the recruiters. I met a civilian doctor who had retired from the Navy and also talked to an active duty doctor who had been in the Navy for a long time. Find doctors who followed a similar path and who are open to sharing honest feedback about their experience so you can take what you learn from them and see how it fits into the context of your life and career goals. I would be happy to share my experiences in the future with students who are considering the pursuing medicine in the Navy.

Hunter Philips

Hunter Philips is a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. He graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in neurobiology and matched at the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium in ophthalmology.

What inspired you to pursue medicine in the military?

Hunter Philips: I received a travel fellowship from the honors program at University of Washington to travel around the world for a year after I graduated. I went to countries throughout South America, Africa, and Asia and during my travels, and realized how privileged I was to be born in in the United States. It took me a few months to crystalize my thoughts, but I decided that military service would be a good way to give back to my country. Also, both of my grandfathers were pilots; one flew B29’s in World War II, so the Air Force seemed like a perfect fit.

Why did you choose to specialize in ophthalmology?

HP: I learned that I really enjoyed surgery through my clinical rotations. I’ve always really loved physics and neurobiology, so ophthalmology was the perfect way to bring together the areas of science and medicine I enjoyed most. There is amazing technology and engineering that is involved in ophthalmology, and it provides a good balance of clinical and surgical time. As a future ophthalmologist, I’m looking forward to helping patients restore their vision.

What kind of military training have you completed during medical school?

HP: The summer before I started medical school, I attended five weeks of commissioned officer training to learn about the proper customs and policies of the Air Force. I’ve also had four active duty rotations – two classes and two clinical rotations. One of the classes that was really interesting was Aerospace Medicine Physiology. In the course we learned about the unique challenges that pilots face in the extreme environmental conditions of flight, and had the opportunity to fly ourselves.

What do you think makes Rush stand out from other medical schools?

HP: Rush has a strong sense of community—and it is not just as the university or hospital, but in includes the wider Chicago community. The people that work here love what they do and want to share excitement with you. The basic science that you learn is the same anywhere you go, but the clinical experience and physicians and being in one hospital makes all the difference.

Kathryn Sulkowski

Kathryn Sulkowski is a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. She graduated from Saint Louis University where she majored in health sciences and minored in biology and health care ethics. Sulkowski will pursue an emergency medicine residency at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada.

What inspired you to pursue a medical career the Air Force?

Kathryn Sulkowski: I always wanted to be a doctor and Saint Louis University (SLU) had a good ROTC presence, which is how I learned about the Health Professions Scholarship Program. People typically join the military right out of high school, so being a military doctor would allow me to give back to a group of people who have already given so much at such a young age. I chose the Air Force because it is the youngest of the military branches – I thought I could have make positive change and have the greatest impact in a newer branch of service.

As you made your decision about where to attend medical school, what made Rush unique in your mind?

KS: When I came to Rush for interview day, a presentation from Sharon Gates about the Rush Community Services Initiatives Programs (RCSIP) really sealed the deal for me. SLU was a Jesuit institution that also had an emphasis for service, so the fact that I could also attend a medical school with the same focus on service was the reason I came to Rush.

There are a lot of pre-clinical activities you can do through RCSIP as soon as you get here. I wanted to work with veterans in the area and reached out to the Road Home Program. At the time, the program had never had student volunteers, but I started working with them right away. I eventually organized the Road Home’s entire student volunteer program so that other students could work there as well.

What drew you to emergency medicine?

KS: I went into my third year with an open mind because I didn’t know what I area I wanted to specialize in when I started medical school. I learned from my clinical rotations that I loved the pace of emergency medicine. I like not knowing what you’re going to see each day and think the unpredictability of emergency medicine keeps you sharper.

My clinical experiences at both Rush and Stroger Hospital really prepared me to succeed, especially in my two military rotations away. Approximately 50 percent of students do not match into emergency medicine in the Air Force and I matched at my top choice.

Rush Medical College will host a commissioning ceremony for Favorite, Philips, and Sulkowski prior to the college’s Commencement Banquet on Friday, April 26. Evan Skinner, NP, will perform the commissioning ceremony. Skinner is a member of the Illinois Air National Guard and serves as the first nurse practitioner for the base in Peoria. He previously deployed to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and Kunar, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Skinner works in the intensive care unit at Rush University Medical Center and in emergency and critical care medicine at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital and CGH Medical Center.