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CPT Samuel Blacker, MD

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Dr. Blacker describes how his interest in medicine led him to a medical school with a military focus.

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Samuel Blacker

Medical School:
 Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine  
Residency: Anesthesiology, PGY-4, Walter Reed Army Medical Center


What led to your interest in medicine?  Who or what inspired you?

I have always been interested in medicine since a young age. I decided to go to medical school as I saw medicine as the combination of science and problem solving while working directly with individuals and helping to improve their lives.

How did you become involved with the military?

I joined the military because it is something I wanted to do. I read about it, met military physicians, and felt the lifestyle was a good fit for me. I was not in the military prior to attending the Uniformed Services University (USU). I interviewed there and was extremely impressed with the medical school and its academic and military focus. Acceptance involved becoming a commissioned officer. I went to the Army Officer Basic Course the summer prior to starting at USU. There is a lot of military medical-specific training while at USU in addition to the other requirements of medical school, specifically related to developing as an officer and leader; being a military physician; and taking our high standards of practice and applying them in austere environments.

Please describe your research work at WRAMC.

I do not do laboratory or clinical research. I did, however, publish a case report and presented the case at a national meeting describing intra-operative autonomic hyperreflexia in a patient with a spinal cord injury in a lower segment than that usually associated with autonomic hyperreflexia. It involved a lot of literature review and understanding of the pathophysiology to be able to describe what occurred and why I thought it occurred, when current understanding of autonomic hyperreflexia differs.

Each resident in my residency presents a Grand Rounds to the Anesthesiology Department in their last year. My presentation was on vasoplegia syndrome, a rare, but very interesting, event in cardiac surgery. I am gathering more information to see if I can write it up as a review article.
While not doing active research, residency provides a lot of academic opportunities.  I have been involved in many cases with unusual events and/or diseases. The ability to treat and manage complex patients involves an understanding of the literature and how to effectively search through it. If something new comes up, then it is an opportunity to try and publish it. 

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I love practicing medicine and specifically all that is involved with anesthesiology. It is very rewarding to be there and safely take care of people through their surgical course, which for most people, is the most high-risk event in their life. 

What obstacles or hurdles did you overcome in your medical school journey?

Balancing life events and still keeping up with the fast pace of medical school. There is so much to learn and, seemingly, so little time that I had to learn to become very efficient and focused in school while balancing life outside of medicine. 

What surprised you the most about medical school?

I learned humility. As much as I learned and grew in medical school, I learned that I will never have all the answers and people I meet will have something to teach me if I listen. 

What advice do you have for new applicants considering a career in medicine?

Understand what you are getting into. It is not just "medical school." It is training to be a physician which comes with a lot of responsibility both in and out of the hospital. It is 4 years of medical school (studying 10+ hours a day, every day), residency (3-7 years depending on specialty, 80 hours a week) and a career of commitment and putting patients before yourself. Being a physician is not a job. It is a career and will be a huge part of who you are. 

Do you have additional information or thoughts to share that would be helpful to prospective students? 

Think about all your career options and determine what is best for you. Go into medicine if you feel completely dedicated and know that is what you want. I love what I do. I would not want to do anything else. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with being a physician and people’s lives and health will depend on decisions you make. Make sure you can handle that.

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