George Mason University
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George Mason University

Class of 2016: Medical boot camp graduate eager to serve in a new role

May 12, 2016   /   by Michele McDonald

Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Richter takes notes during one of his Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program classes at George Mason University in Manassas, Virginia. Photo courtesy of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

When Joshua Richter walks across the graduation stage, he’ll be one step closer to becoming a military doctor.

The U.S. Army sergeant first class is part of the first graduating class of the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program (EMDP2) at George Mason University’s College of Science. The two-year program is designed to ready military personnel for medical school.

Richter and eight other members of the program’s first cohort will be attending the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), the country’s only federal medical school. The first cohort included members from the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force.

For Richter, the father of two young children, becoming a military doctor is another extension of his call to serve. The Chicago-area native joined the Army 15 years ago. He saw military doctors in action and assisted them while on duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“On one occasion in particular, I witnessed a team leader getting shot and then watched as the surgeons attempted to shunt together his femoral artery,” said Richter. Seeing the work of the surgeons was a key factor in his decision to move to a medical career path.

Military doctors bring more than medical know-how to their work. “Because of my military experience, I’ll be able to identify with my patients,” Richter said. “It will be a way to relate to them. I feel almost obligated to serve them as a physician.”

The EMDP2 started nearly two years ago when USU awarded George Mason a $7.8 million, five-year contract.

"Our partnership between the Uniformed Services University and Mason is tremendously important,” said Aaron Saguil, associate dean for recruitment and admissions with USU’s Medical School. “The postbaccalaureate program helps us to diversify the face of American medicine by bringing phenomenal young veterans into the military medical corps. This is not just a win for USU and Mason, but for the nation as well." 

More military students are coming. The second cohort’s 12 members began classes last fall and will graduate next spring. This group includes a mix of individuals from the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps. A third cohort starts this fall and is expected to have 19 to 20 members who come from the Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy.

“Mason's College of Science is using its expertise in premedical education to contribute to the future of military medicine,” said Donna Fox, associate dean of student affairs and special programs for the College of Science. “It's a partnership we are extremely proud of.”

“Making the move from military duty to class work has its own challenges, but the small cohort means everyone is working toward the same goal and supporting each other,” Richter said. Chemistry was his toughest class; physics was the most enjoyable.

“Understanding the forces behind every day phenomena is fascinating,” he said. 

And while Richter, 35, said he was most surprised at how young college students are, he finds school “quite a bit easier the second time around once you have been exposed to the real world. Just apply the same discipline you’ve used to pay your bills on time, etc. to doing your best in your schoolwork.”


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