FORT KNOX, Ky. –
A partnership that was already providing some of the best medical training in the country just got better.
A contract naming Baylor University as the sponsor of the Army’s new Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program became official today. Baylor is already the sponsor of the Army’s similar programs for creating commissioned physical therapists and nutritionists.
The physical therapy program is ranked among the top college programs in the country. Nutrition programs don’t garner the same attention from the well-known ranking systems, but if they did, Maj. Lori Maggioni said she has “no doubt the Army program would be right there on top.”
Maggioni became a registered dietitian when she finished the Army-Baylor University Graduate Program in Nutrition in 2011. She is now the recruiting program director for the Army Medical Specialist Corps, the collective name given to the officers who serve as occupational therapists, physical therapists, registered dietitians, and physician assistants.
Often referred to as the “cornerstone” of the Army’s medical and performance readiness, the Army is looking to reinforce that foundation. The expansion of the Baylor partnership, Maggioni said, is a direct result of H2F, the Army moniker for its recently adopted Holistic Health and Fitness System.
A key part of H2F is a new focus on integrating SP Corps providers into Soldiers’ daily lives. The H2F environment has them embedded into brigades and battalions, working side-by-side with the Soldiers they are responsible for.
“It’s really an awesome time to be an SP Corps officer because the Army is placing so much emphasis on this, and our Corps is really on the forefront of it,” Maggioni said.
Army doctrine describes H2F as a “cultural shift” that will continue to evolve over the next 20 to 30 years. As the need for SP Corps officers grows with it, Maggioni said the school slots for growing those officers are also expected to increase.
“Now more than ever,” she said, “these (SP Corps) programs are in high demand.”
Interest in the Corps and its graduate programs comes from both in and outside the Army. The program for physician assistants, who Maggioni said are currently in “super-high demand,” is the only one that requires that applicants currently be Soldiers. Applications for the other three schools typically come from civilians, though current Soldiers are welcome to apply as well.
Maggioni grew up in an Army household as the daughter of a career Army officer. Still, she didn’t know the Army had options for people like her until she was an undergraduate student at the University of Georgia.
“It just seemed like such an incredible opportunity to combine my interest and passion for nutrition and health with serving in the military and caring for service members,” she said.
2nd Lt. Eva Queen discovered the Baylor partnership when she was an Army staff sergeant with a specialty in repairing small arms and artillery. She was training for the infantry, something that had just become a possibility for women, when an injury required surgery and thwarted her plans.
Queen was in rehabilitation when she “fell in love with the idea” of becoming a physical therapist. “One door closes and another opens,” she said. “It ended up really working out for me.”
Now, Queen is a student within the Army-Baylor program at the Army Medical Center of Excellence on Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. All SP Corps graduate program students complete their didactic work at the Center.
Queen earned the bachelor’s degree she needed to be eligible for the Army-Baylor program while she balanced full-time Army hours and her education. At Fort Sam Houston, the Army pays for her education and active-duty income while she is a full-time student. Not having to balance work and school “makes all the difference in the world,” the Denver, Colorado, native said.
Queen’s undergraduate degree is in biology, but a science degree is not required for admission to the Army-Baylor PT and OT programs. Maggioni recently spoke to someone who had a business degree and was interested in the nutrition program she graduated from. That program is also slated to drop its specific degree requirements at the end of this year.
“There’s a lot of people out there who change career paths and find their way to these medical specialties,” Maggioni said. “They bring a lot of experiences…we find these people to be very valuable.”
The Army also values the many who already have acquired skills before joining the SP Corps. Capt. Jacqueline Tamayo received her Army commission after seven years of civilian practice in occupational therapy. In the big picture, the Army offered Tamayou personal growth and leadership opportunities she hadn’t found in the civilian sector, she said.
But Tamayo was careful to research the more specific benefits, too. She really liked that she could escape the pressure from insurance companies on civilian therapists. Because the Army is the military branch with the largest medical corps, she also learned, it has more job and educational opportunities.
“The help with my (student) loan repayment was a big incentive as well,” Tamayo cheerfully emphasized.
The many avenues to joining the SP Corps is Maggioni’s team of medical recruiters’ specialty. She said those seeking its graduate program scholarships generally spend two to three months assembling and submitting application packets. The deadline for the new occupational therapy program sponsored by Baylor is in July.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Click here for details and videos about the Army Medical Specialist Corps
Click here to learn more about the new Army Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program