Though the United States Army caps nonmedical enlistments at age 42, the Officer Accession Pilot Program (OAPP)—a relatively new recruitment initiative—accepts healthcare professionals from ages 43 to 60 who work in certain critical specialties. The professionals make a two-year service commitment. Dr. Gilbert has since expanded that commitment. He will serve three years active reserves and five years inactive reserves. “The military knows they need more senior doctors serving, especially those in private practice because they have such wonderful and diverse expertise and experience,” he says. “The OAPP provides a way to bring the parties together. It’s not just dermatologists. They’re looking for ER doctors, orthopedics, neurology and various surgical specialties—there are so many other physicians who could do what I’ve done, and I encourage everyone to consider it.
“As long as you’re not a felon and have a valid license to practice medicine, they will take your application,” he says. The application process can last four months to a year. Once accepted, an Army review board assigns rank based on the candidate’s education, years in practice, teaching experience, publishing credentials and other factors. Lieutenant colonel is the highest rank in the OAPP program.
Even with a specific expertise, all enlistees are required to meet certain physical fitness requirements. Dr. Gilbert had to be able to do 27 sit-ups in two minutes, 18 push-ups in two minutes, and run two miles in 19 minutes and 54 seconds. Initially, these benchmarks were challenging, but he asked for and received special permission to train with California State University (Cal State) Fullerton’s ROTC cadets.
“I received my commission and swore my oath on July 24, 2010—one of the proudest and happiest days of my life,” he says.