Can civilian students apply to Air Force residencies?

Recently, I have had a few people ask me about whether civilian students, without a military scholarship contract or obligation, can apply to Air Force residencies. The short answer is yes, under certain circumstances you can. The long answer is that, like everything else in the military and in graduate medical education, it’s complicated. You can find the official memorandum on this topic here.

The short answer is that yes, you can apply to an Air Force residency if you didn’t sign a military contract in medical school or get scholarship funding from the military. This is called an Exception to Policy or ETP selection. If you are granted an ETP, you then go through the military (JSGME) match. More on the military match here.

There are some requirements that must be met before you can apply for an ETP:

  • The basics: US citizen, completed an MD/DO within the last 3 years, passed USMLE/COMLEX Step 1 & 2
  • No conflicting commitments: you can’t already have a commitment to any military service, or any other internship/residency
  • A space must be available in your desired location and specialty

If you have already started internship/residency:

  • Can’t have been fired from any other GME program, or have any other adverse personnel actions on your record (probation, etc)
  • If you have already completed a PGY-1 year, you also need to have passed step 3 and hold a valid medical license in any US state

Additional requirements for foreign graduates:

  • certified by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG)
  • completed an ACGME-accredited PGY-1 in the US or Puerto Rico (and met all requirements above for those who have completed a PGY-1)

If you meet all of these requirements, you can apply to the Chief of USAF Physician Education Branch. If approved for an ETP, you will be instructed to enter the military match.

Disclaimer: This is very rare, and I haven’t been able to talk to anyone who has actually applied to this program, let alone been selected. The information in this article was gleaned from researching the topic on my own and reading the Air Force’s publications on the topic. Because of this, I have included links to my sources whenever possible. 

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