"Extraordinary": Three Military Medical School Graduates Reflect on their Experiences

Three graduates share stories from their time at USU after Commencement ceremony.

Army 2nd Lt. Charles Booth (middle, seated), as a first-year medical student at USU, studies with his classmates
in the university library. Booth graduated during USU's 44th Commencement ceremony on May 20th.
(Photo credit: Akea Brown)

May 25, 2023 by Hadiyah Brendel

On May 20th, the Uniformed Services University (USU) conferred degrees to more than 360 uniformed and civilian health professionals during its 44th Commencement ceremony. Graduates from two of USU’s schools, the F. Edward H├ębert School of Medicine (SOM) and the Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing (GSN), joined faculty, administrators, and healthcare dignitaries at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. for the ceremony. 

Cloaked in academic regalia, graduates received their medical, graduate nursing, biomedical science, public health, philosophy, health professions education or clinical psychology diplomas. They join an exceptional community of military and civilian health professionals in the Military Health Care System (MHS). 

USU’s two other schools, the College of Allied Health Sciences and the Postgraduate Dental College, will confer their degrees in future ceremonies. 

Each graduate at Saturday’s ceremony strengthens the medically-ready force, adding an individual layer to the collective mission of the MHS. Three of those graduates share their stories. 

Captain Charles Booth, Medical Corps, U.S. Army

Doctor of Medicine, SOM
Family Medicine

Army Capt. (Dr.) Charles Booth calls his experience at USU one of “perseverance.” Born and raised in Tacoma, Washington, Booth knew early on that he wanted to pursue a career in medicine. He witnessed a high prevalence of diabetes, high blood pressure, and drug addiction within his family and community. 

Capt. Charles Booth received his Doctor of Medicine degree from USU's School of Medicine. He was matched to his first choice at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. [Photo credit: Student National Medical Association (SNMA), USU chapter]
Capt. Charles Booth received his Doctor
of Medicine degree from USU's School of
Medicine. He was matched to his first choice
at the Tripler Army Medical Center in
Honolulu, Hawaii. [Photo credit: Student
National Medical Association (SNMA),
USU chapter]
“I’ve always wanted to help people and use my intelligence to be able to change my community and help out,” Booth says. 

He received a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Washington State. Then enlisted in the Army as a medical lab technician. Booth did about two years of active duty training and served in a reserve unit before deciding he wanted to do more. So, he applied to medical school. 

“I took my MCAT and got admitted to USU off the waiting list. My first try. I was blessed to get that,” Booth says. 

However, besides the stress of the academic workload, Booth felt another stressor. Due to his admission off the waiting list, Booth felt he “had something to prove.” That feeling compounded with Booth’s feeling of isolation as a minority on campus. “I didn’t want to let on I was struggling. I wanted people to think I belonged here,” says Booth. Yet, even as coursework overwhelmed Booth, he kept it to himself. But eventually, he needed to remediate back to the class of 2023. 

“It was a humbling experience,” Booth says. Yet, Booth says, it also allowed him to hone in on the areas he previously struggled with. This time, he received praise for his clinical reasoning and bedside manner, contrasting his prior scores. 

The extra year also allowed Booth to form a stronger connection with classmates. He found a supportive social group he related to and realized the benefits of reaching out to others.

“You have to ask for help sometimes. You have to let people know when you’re struggling because nine times out of 10, somebody’s probably going through the same thing and they know what helps,” says Booth. 

Also while at USU, Booth joined the Student National Medical Association (SNMA). In his role as Liaison to the Admissions Office, he worked to contact prospective applicants from underrepresented populations. In addition to hosting interviewees, Booth encouraged interested candidates to continue their pursuit of the field of medicine. 

On Match Day, when students learn which medical residency program they will be going to, or “match” with, Booth learned he matched with his first choice: the Family Medicine residency at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. Besides learning as much as he can during his residency, Booth plans to get in touch with nature through hiking and experiencing as much as he can. 

And Booth has a few ideas on how to connect with the community there as well. During his initial visit to Hawaii, he noticed a large homeless population that reminded him of his hometown. “I really want to see if there is any way that I could help out in that situation. Maybe putting on free clinics or doing health drives in the community,” Booth says. Two of Booth’s classmates and friends, also members of SNMA, will be at Tripler Army Medical Center with him. They hope to continue with community outreach programs in the Honolulu area just as they did for the Bethesda community during medical school.

While Booth describes his time at USU as “a rollercoaster”, he’s excited for the next step in his journey. “I’m really just looking forward to being a doctor,” says Booth. 

Major Ashleigh Roberds, Medical Service Corps, U.S. Army

Ph.D. in Vector Biology and Parasitology
SOM Graduate Education Programs

When asked about her time at USU, Army Maj. Ashleigh Roberds sums it up into one word: “opportunity.” An opportunity not only to pursue her goal towards working in global health, but an opportunity to “impact change.”

Maj. Ashleigh Roberds received her Ph.D. in Vector Biology and Parasitology from Graduate Programs of USU's School of Medicine. (Photo credit: Maj. Ashleigh Roberds)
Maj. Ashleigh Roberds
received her Ph.D. in Vector
Biology and Parasitology from
Graduate Programs of USU's
School of Medicine. (Photo
credit: Maj. Ashleigh Roberds)
After commissioning into the Army in May 2012, Roberds worked at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam, Houston. She worked on the operational side, as a hospital administrator. Her interest in global health sparked after she took courses at the Humanitarian Conflict Response Institute in the UK. Afterwards, she realized she wanted to be on the side of healthcare where she had a say, where she could make a change and be impactful. 

So she and her husband sat down in a coffee shop and talked about what opportunities in the Army she could leverage. Realizing she wanted to make a career change, to an Army microbiologist, the next step required a Ph.D. So Roberds began looking at universities.  

After considering a few options, Roberds decided to apply to USU. Her decision resulted from a phone call with Army Col. (Dr.) Eric Garges and Dr. Ann Stewart, now retired, her former academic advisor. On the call she could “hear that they loved what they did and who they worked with,” says Roberds. 

“I appreciate the network that USU has and their ability to connect with people all over the world,” Roberds says. She also reflects on her excitement to be a part of a “really cool network of brilliant scientists and brilliant physicians working together to improve medicine for the military.”

Once on campus, in addition to coursework and labs, Roberds took on leadership roles in the student community. She served on the Graduate Student Council, the Student Wellness Advisory Board, and the USU President's Working Parents Committee, among others.

Speaking on some challenges, Roberds says “between two pregnancies and COVID, it was hard.” Many times, she relied on the support from family, the USU Counseling Center, and the collaborative community she found on campus.  

For her endeavors as a PhD candidate, Maj. Roberds was presented with the Board of Regents Award during Saturday’s ceremony. The award is the highest honor for graduating doctoral students, recognizing outstanding academic and research achievements as well as contributions to student academic life, welfare and morale. The award also recognizes Roberds’ work as a laboratory instructor and teaching assistant for several courses. 

Her experience made a lasting impact on her family as well. Recalling a class where she needed to find disease-carrying bugs, Roberds says it became a family-wide mission. On camping trips, she would go with her husband and her son to collect bugs. Her parents and in-laws even mailed bugs to her. “My son still talks about it – getting to do that and loving it,” Roberds says. Overall, Roberds describes her time at USU as “a wonderful experience.”

Major Regine Faucher, Nurse Corps, U.S. Army

Doctor of Nursing Practice 
Dual Family Nurse Practitioner Program/ Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Program, GSN

For Army Maj. Regine Faucher, her time at USU was “extraordinary” That, she says, is because there is no other place where you’ll find the caliber of faculty and professors, support and mentorship, resources, facilities, and opportunities like that at USU. 

Maj. Regine Faucher says her time at USU was an "extraordinary" opportunity, and unlike any other university. (Photo credit: Maj. Regine Faucher)
Maj. Regine Faucher says her time at
USU was an "extraordinary" opportunity,
and unlike any other university. (Photo
credit: Maj. Regine Faucher)
Faucher enlisted in the Army in 2006, as a way to provide stability for her family. Originally from Haiti, there were periods in her childhood of political strife, fear, and poverty. So, Faucher says, “I’ve always thought that I’m fortunate. Like every little opportunity that I get here in the states.”

When enlisting, she knew she wanted to do nursing. She served as a medic and received an assignment, as part of the Army Enlisted Commissioning Program (AECP) at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in 2012. Also in 2012, Faucher graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Maryland. As a member of the Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing, she got involved with the only federal chapter, located at USU, on the same naval base as WRNMMC.

After a deployment and working as a nurse for about seven years, Faucher knew she was ready to pursue a doctoral program in nursing. 

So Faucher applied to the Long Term Health Education program (LTHET). The LTHET includes a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) component. Most military applicants for the program can pick a school of choice once accepted, except for the Army. But fortunately for Faucher, in recent years, all Army service members for the FNP received assignments to USU. 

“It’s been awesome,” says Faucher, especially taking into consideration the resources available to her as a dual Family Nurse Practitioner and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner. 

That’s not to say Faucher’s journey at USU wasn’t intense. Yet, after the stress of the first few semesters, Faucher found a method to the madness. And unlike friends at other nursing schools in the area, Faucher didn’t have to divide her attention between school and work. “My work is school,” Faucher says, adding there’s no way to really describe the experiences afforded at USU. 

Having more time to focus on her coursework allowed Faucher to designate time to helping others. She served as Vice President of the Class of 2023. She helped field inquiries from the class, and preceding graduation, provided clarification and logistical help for things such as taking board exams and permanent change of station orders. Faucher also volunteered to tutor fellow classmates. 

And while most graduates shied away from Bushmaster, a learning experience where SOM and GSN students practice tactical combat casualty care, Faucher loved it. “I love being in the field and being with the soldiers,” Faucher said. Faucher’s fellow classmates even awarded her a Razzie, an unofficial student award. She laughs as she says the award voted her “most likely to be USU faculty.”

A credit to her focus and determination, Faucher received the Outstanding Student Award. Sponsored by the Military Officers Association of America, the award is the highest academic program honor faculty can award a graduating student. Faucher was also awarded the Esprit de Corps Award, which she accepted to thunderous applause from the audience at Commencement. The award is given to a PhD, DNP, or master’s program graduate who has done the most to promote the spirit of the graduating class, and has inspired professionalism, camaraderie and a commitment to service. 

Following graduation, Faucher heads to Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, Virginia. She’s excited to have the opportunity to perfect her craft, and put what she’s learned into practice.