This weekend, Kelly MacDonald will fulfill her dream of becoming an Army doctor. After graduating from Alpert Medical School, the West Point alumna will go to the Walter Reed military hospital to begin her residency.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — By Memorial Day, Kelly MacDonald MD’15 will have two new titles to her name: doctor and captain.
MacDonald graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 2011 and attended Alpert Medical School through the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program. After Brown’s medical commencement and officer commissioning ceremonies this weekend, when she’ll receive her medical degree and her captain’s bars, she’ll get ready for her move to Bethesda, MD, where she begins her psychiatry residency at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center next month.
“I was exposed to the military and medicine when I was pretty young,” says MacDonald, a Carlisle, PA, native whose mother was a dietitian in the Army Medical Specialist Corps when MacDonald was a child. “Watching my mother serve and hearing about her experiences was a big influence on me.”
When it came time to apply for college, MacDonald says she visited “civilian schools,” but was impressed by West Point because she “liked how students were working toward a common goal and seemed more purposeful.”
She loved the fast-paced life of the military academy, and looked forward to an Army career, but she wanted to “get out of the military bubble” during med school. Alpert Medical School seemed to her an open, accepting place where she could take a break and recharge before becoming an Army physician.
Yes, that’s right: med school was a respite for this former West Point cadet. “When I started medical school, it was like going from 100 mph to putting on the brakes,” MacDonald says. At Brown, she learned how to care for patients, but also how to take care of herself—to slow down, spend time with friends and family, and indulge her hobbies, especially running, reading, and vegetarian cooking. “It’s difficult to be compassionate and to be a careful listener if you don’t care for yourself, too,” she says.
After residency, MacDonald will begin her nine-year service requirement, which could take her anywhere: “it could be a hospital, or a clinic on a small base, or I could be deployed,” she says. Wherever she goes, she’ll fulfill a critical need.
“The biggest medical issues that actually affect the Army’s mission are in psychiatry now,” including PTSD, suicide, and sexual assault, she says. “As we’re seeing more and more how widespread mental health challenges are in the military, psychiatrists have the potential to play a big role in addressing these huge challenges in the Army.”