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Joining the US Navy in Dental School through HPSP

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

The Journey to Joining the US Navy

I knew since the start of the college that I wanted to pursue dentistry- but to tell you the truth, I never foresaw myself pursuing the profession through the means of the armed forces. Joining the US Navy as a dental officer has been one of the most emboldening tasks I have ever ventured in my life.  This blog post is dedicated to my wonderful mentors in the navy, Ryan Magsino (D4 at UCSF), Dr. Sam Suliman, and my awesome recruiter, LT Vanessa Brown who has supported me in every step of this transition. 

My recruiter LT Brown and I after swearing-in.

So, to kick off this blog post, what is HPSP? The Health Professions Scholarship Program, through any of the three armed forces, provides a full-ride scholarship (tuition, dental equipment, health insurance, etc) to the dental school of your choice, a monthly stipend, and 45 days pay of active duty service/year while in dental school. In return, dental officers will serve the equivalent years of school as active duty LT in the dental corp, followed by four years in the reserve. 

I was initially drawn to the Health Professions Scholarship Program for the idea of financial relief. However, I knew that reason alone was not enough to make a commitment this large in life. As a result, I went on a quest to learn more about the dentistry in the military through speaking with multiple HPSP students. In addition, I was fortunate enough to have been shadowing a Navy Reserve Orthodontist. From my many conversations with Dr. Suliman, I realized how the very core facets that intrinsically drew me to dentistry were also evident in the US Navy. 

Just like dentistry, the armed forces are committed to protecting members of their community. I am attracted to serving like-minded individuals who share an impulse to safeguard the wellbeing of others. I saw that the intellectual challenges, the fundamental communal nature of the enterprise, the relationships associated with both dentistry and the US Navy, and the teaching moments of the profession perfectly align with who I am. Navy dentistry appeals to me because I know the patients I serve will not have to worry about their medical expenses. As a lifelong learner and team player, I am intrigued by the structured environment of the military because I can focus on providing excellent care to my patients without the distractions of management, overhead, and insurance. 

Becoming a Navy corp officer encompasses so many opportunities for me to become the best dental provider and leader I can be. Standing tall, shoulder to shoulder with fellow members of the armed forces with a unified objective to improve the quality of life of the surrounding community is something I hope to accomplish by not only serving Navy sailors and their families but also immersing myself in humanitarian work overseas. These values all came to life for me at my commissioning ceremony where I swore in as a US Naval Dental Officer.

Signing my life away! Jk, documentation acknowledging a formal indoctrination into the military community. 

Since commissioning, I have found a great sense of community at UCSF. Many of our professors have served in the military and their mentorship in dental school and navigating the naval experience has been invaluable. For a young Asian American woman with little experience in military customs, engaging these conversations allow me to connect with faculty, peers, and military mates. If you are interested in learning more about the Veteran Support and Military Support Services at UCSF, please feel free to watch this video highlighting the community among the armed forces at UCSF.

The Process: 

1. Find a recruiter. Note: Be selective in this process. Your recruiter will be your main point of contact connecting you to the military branch of interest, and it’s important to have a trusting, transparent, and comfortable relationship with one another. 

2. Paperwork: After finding a recruiter, he/she will start processing paperwork for you and get you ready for MEPS. At this time, you should have your DAT score ready. 

3. MEPS: MEPS (Military Entrance Processing) is an exhausting and necessary piece of your application. You will start your day at 4AM and join local enlistees and fellow officers joining any of the armed branches. Throughout the day, you’ll undergo vision/hearing testing, drug testing, a physical examination and a series of exams. It is your first true experience in the military.  Note: This experience can vary for many. Often times, when recruiting office personnel recognizes you're an officer candidate, they tend to lighten up on the scrutiny and treatment of you. 

4. Statement of Motivation: The prompt may differ for different branches, but for the US Navy Dental Corp, the prompt is: Why do you want to be a dentist? Why do you want to be in the navy? 5. Interviews. The interviews will typically be a mix of facetime/skype/phone interviews where higher rank officials in the military will evaluate your application and spend about thirty minutes getting to know you. Expect typical interview questions similar to dental school interviews. In addition, this is an excellent time to ask any questions you may have of their experience. I asked questions ranging from how women in the navy navigate their experience, any ethical dilemmas they may have faced while on service, and how they have balanced family life while on service. 6. Commissioning Ceremony: Swearing in under oath with your recruiter in front of loved ones is a special day that truly solidifies the commitment you are about to take on! 7. ODS: Office development school is a five-week program that can be done after the first year of dental school or upon graduation. (Stay tuned for more information)


1. Can I apply to multiple branches of the military or just one? You may apply to all three (Army, Air Force, Navy). 2. When is the best time to apply for the HPSP scholarship? It is ideal to reach out to a recruiter a cycle prior to applying and remain in good contact. You will officially start processing your paperwork as you apply for the AADSAS application. Note: You will need acceptance to a US Dental school to accept the HPSP scholarship.


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