USUHS vs HPSP
Ever wonder how the United States’ Armed Forces fill out the roster of medical commissioned officers in the different services? The Uniformed Services Health Professions Revitalization Act of 1972 was established to address just that, to make sure there is no lack for medical support from trained, medical professionals in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and such. The two major elements of this act are the establishment of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (aka USUHS) and the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP).
The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS, but the acronym officially used in more recent times is USU) is a university centering on health sciences funded and under the jurisdiction of the American federal government. The university’s courses include dental health, nursing, and complete coverage of medical health sciences. The main goal of the USU is to develop and train graduates for future service to the U.S. government, whether on the home front or overseas as part of the Medical Corps.
Founded as part of the Uniformed Services Health Professions Revitalization Act of 1972, sponsored by then-Representative Felix Edward Hébert, the campus of the USU is located in Bethesda, Maryland which graduated its first class in the year 1980. The USU provides post-graduate education in preparation for federal service, similar to other federal service learning institutions as the United States Military Academy in West Point. Students are effectively members of the uniformed services. The education is free in exchange for committed service to the U.S. post graduation. Students under the USU are given the status of being commissioned officers with a rank of O-1 under one of the following United States services: Air Force, Army, Navy, and Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC). This is notably different from other undergraduate academies. Students in these other institutions are given the rank of “cadet” (which is the lowest rank for enlisted soldiers).
Students who wish to enter the USU who already have a higher rank must accept an administrative demotion. Also, those who are in the Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps (NOAA Corps) must resign their current commission in order to enroll in the program. Although the USU accepts both civilian and uniformed officers, the latter receive the full salary and benefits while the former can receive stipends. Upon graduation and following the stages of internship and residency, these medical students are committed to active duty service of seven years and an inactive duty service of six years.
The HPSP (or Health Professions Scholarship Program) is not a learning institution in and of itself but a special program giving potential medical professionals a paid education. In exchange, those who benefit from this program are inducted into medical service as commissioned officers. It was also part of the Uniformed Services Health Professions Revitalization Act of 1972, as in the case of the USU. Where the former is the institution, the HPSP is the program that provides the means to recruit dentists, nurses, psychologists, mental health professionals, physicians, pharmacists, and veterinarians into duty for the different branches of service in the United States. Potential students are subjected to qualifications for commission (such as citizenship, physical and mental fitness, educational attainment, and the like). During medical training, students under the program are placed on inactive duty status (although they are required to serve at least 45 days as active duty officers each fiscal year). When students graduate, they are promoted to the rank of Captain (for Army and Air Force) or Lieutenant (if under service to the Navy). Interestingly, the program is not offered to the Marine Corps, as the Navy provides the medical services to it.
As the United States Armed Forces continues to protect the ideals and interests of the country, not just at home but beyond its shores, there will always be a need for dedicated individuals to care for the health and medical needs of the services under it. The former USUHS and the HPSP provide the means for these needs to be met.
1.Both the USUHS (now USU) and the HPSP were established in 1972 as part of the Uniformed Services Health Professions Revitalization Act.
2.The USU is the learning institution that provides the education for commissioned medical professionals.
3.The HPSP is the program that provides the means to recruit medical commissioned officers.