For family and country: TCOM Military Match students find out their residency homes
Members of the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Class of 2023 who are part of the United States Armed Forces received their new assignments, as their Military Matches were revealed. Those students discovered where they will spend their residency upon graduation. Five members of TCOM’s Class of 2023 matched, with specialties ranging from family medicine to anesthesiology.
Many TCOM students in the military have a long history of family members who have served our nation.
“I have quite a few family members that have served,” said TCOM student Emma Kiefer, a 2015 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy. “My paternal grandfather was an Army staff sergeant who served in World War II, and my maternal grandfather was an Army Air Core major. I currently have family members serving in the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and as a Merchant Mariner.”
Some TCOM students joined the Health Professions Scholarship Program, which offers two-, three- and four-year military scholarships that can help cover civilian medical school tuition, pay for fees and provide a monthly living stipend. This scholarship is offered by the Army, Navy and Air Force, and the benefits are the same across all three services.
Those in the HPSP receive specialized training that will prepare them to become an officer in the U.S. military.
“I joined the HPSP program because I knew I was interested in primary care, and I knew the military would provide me with a scope of skills that you could not find anywhere else,” said TCOM student Zoe Swanger, who matched into family medicine with the U.S. Navy.
Below are the stories of those TCOM students who will join the Armed Forces upon graduation in May.
Second Lieutenant Emma Kiefer, U.S. Air Force
Kiefer had a strong military presence in her family with multiple family members graduating from service academies, but her own service began when she joined the Air Force Academy in 2011 as a member of the volleyball team. Medicine, though, has always been a calling for her.
“Going into medicine has been a desire of mine since before college, but that shifted into what felt like a strong calling shortly after graduating from USAFA,” she said. “I was very fortunate to have leadership who supported my goals and helped me navigate the process of getting to medical school from active duty.”
Prior to arriving at TCOM in 2019 and after graduating from the Air Force Academy in 2015 with a degree in Biology, Kiefer got a unique assignment from the Air Force. She was selected as a nuclear and missile operations officer. Kiefer spent the next four years on active duty at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana.
“One of the many things I’ve picked up in my time in the military is that there is no singular path that takes you where you want to go,” she said. “In the environment that is medical school, comparing oneself to others is at times unavoidable. But just like our paths to graduation are uniquely different, so are our victories. Both the path and the victories are worth celebrating, despite how they compare to someone else’s.”
Kiefer is excited to return to active duty with the military but is very open-minded about transitioning to private practice or continuing her military service.
She matched in OBGYN at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. Upon graduation, Kiefer will be promoted to captain in the United States Air Force.
Second Lieutenant, Amogh Krishnagiri, U.S. Air Force
Krishnagiri’s path to the military was a unique and inspiriting journey. His parents immigrated to the United States from India in the 1990s, and he became a first-generation American when he was born. While growing up, he was drawn to aviation, medicine and science.
“I had a handful of friends who went to military service academies out of high school and was impressed by their growth, development, jobs and service-oriented leadership,” Krishnagiri said. “When it came time for medical school, considering military medicine in the Air Force was a natural extension of these interests and thoughts.”
It was a conversation in his senior year of college with a retired Navy trauma surgeon that showed Krishnagiri the opportunities the military offered.
“That pointed to the unique training opportunities, austere and unconventional practice patterns/environments and resourcefulness in applied science in the context of service to others and the nation that swayed me to further pursue military medicine,” he said.
Krishnagiri knows there is something special about being a first-generation American and also the first person from his family to serve in the Armed Forces. He is passionate about emergency medicine and sees many different opportunities he can take.
“I am excited for the many different paths the Air Force offers,” he said. “There are many paths, such as critical care air transport, mobile surgical teams, flight surgery, fellowship opportunities and staff physician at military training facilities. I am strongly considering fellowship training in critical care at this time.”
Krishnagiri matched in operational emergency medicine at The Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. Upon graduation, Krishnagiri will be promoted to captain.
Captain Freddy R. Morocho, U.S. Army
It was not a choice of going into the Armed Forces for Morocho — it was his chance to go back into the U.S. Army. Morocho served 15 years of active duty before arriving at TCOM and going into the HPSP. The decision was easy.
“It was my way to say thanks to this nation that has done so much for me and my family,” he said.
Morocho is not the only member of his family with military ties. He has two cousins who are Marines. When given the option of going back into active service or private practice as a physician, Morocho did not hesitate.
“Back to active duty so I can continue to serve our troops,” he said.
Morocho will do so at Fort Hood’s Darnell Army Medical Center in Killen in psychiatry. He was a captain in the Army when he left and will return to that rank upon graduation.
Ensign Zoe Swanger, U.S. Navy
Swanger is the first in her family to join the military. She has a passion for primary care, specifically lifestyle and operation medicine. During her rotations at HSC Health, Swanger learned up close from TCOM faculty who are specializing in that very area that she’s interested in.
“I was able to get a great foundation in these fields at the Health Pavilion working with Dr. Dante Paredes, Dr. Maria Crompton and Dr. James Aston,” Swanger said.
Through the Navy, Swanger will be training in family medicine, but she has her sights set on a higher position: flight medicine.
“I plan on applying for flight because I think aerospace physiology is fascinating, and I fell in love with aviation when I rode in my first A36 Beechcraft a couple of years ago,” she said. “I am hoping to work in aviation medicine for a few years before I complete my residency training.”
Flight medicine is an active-duty service role that typically ranges from 2-4 years, with the position generally referred to as general medical officer. During that time, an individual could go into the fleet, work with Marines or possibly dive medicine.
“I knew I was going to pursue one of these active-duty roles when I applied for the HPSP program,” Swanger said. “I feel the training experiences you are offered as a GMO make you a better military officer and a better doctor.”
Swanger matched in family medicine at Camp Pendleton in California. Upon her graduation, Swanger will be commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Navy.
Lt. John M. Ver Hoef, U.S. Army
Military roots run deep for Lt. John Ver Hoef, so service comes naturally. His father was an F-15 pilot for the United States Air Force, and both of his grandfathers served, one in the Navy and the other in the Air Force. At Texas A&M, Ver Hoef joined the corps of cadets and became a commissioned officer in the United States Army before arriving at TCOM to begin medical school.
He joined the Student Association of Military Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons (SAMOPS), becoming a first-year representative and then president during his second year.
He has spent his summers during medical school at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma, and Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio doing various military medical training to prepare him for his future in military medicine and deployments. Through it all, Ver Hoef found his medical passion.
“Over these last few years, I have found my happy place in anesthesia and aim to match into a military residency,” he said. “Long term, I plan to serve out my time doing anesthesia in a military institution, get married, have a few kids and continue my lifelong career in anesthesia!”
His dream came true as Ver Hoef matched in anesthesiology at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.