One of the more colorful figures in the United States Navy Medical Corps was Rear Admiral Ammen Farenholt. Born in 1871, Farenholt was stationed with the U.S. Marine Guard in Seoul, Korea before serving under Admiral George Dewey during the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898. Before World War I, Farenholt was the Commanding Officer at Naval Hospital Bremerton in Washington; during the War he was named Commanding Officer of the War Dispensary, which was later transformed into the Naval Hospital San Diego. He also Commander at Naval Hospital Mare Island in California for two stretches, 1918 to 1921 and 1928 to 1930.

Farenholt decorated many of his commands with sundials he had commissioned, or with military memorabilia he had collected over the years. He also made grandfather clocks by hand and crafted hospital seals, some of which are still on display today.

Perhaps what is most interesting about Farenholt, however, is his lineage. His father, Oscar Farenholt, became the first enlisted Sailor to reach Flag Officer status when he was promoted to Rear Admiral on September 1, 1901. Today, the Navy’s Medical Corps is giving enlisted Sailors the opportunity to reach officer status through a unique program called the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program, or EMDP2.

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Conducted in conjunction with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, which was founded in 1972 and now goes under the name Uniformed Services University (USU), the EMDP2 program gives Sailors who have proven they are highly motivated and have a record of good academic achievement the chance to earn a medical degree for free while remaining on active duty. Candidates chosen for the program will attend a two-year program held at USU consisting of full-time course loads in traditional college classes, structured Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) preparation, mentoring by peers, and the chance to observe clinical medical practices.

There are certain standards and rules that those chosen for the program must follow. Sailors who fail to maintain at least a 3.0 GPA (on a scale of 4.0) are removed from the program, and they can also be dismissed for poor conduct, illegal drug usage, and other indicators of poor judgment or behavior. Completing the 24-month program is not a guarantee of acceptance to medical school or an officer’s commission, and graduates must apply for admission to USU or one of the Navy’s programs (HPSP or HSCP) that fund their education at a private medical school. Also, those selected must serve for at least 60 months from the time they begin the program.

For enlisted Sailors with a passion to serve others and who have shown they have the potential to shine in a challenging academic environment, the EMDP2 program could very well be the first step on the way to an officer’s commission—which itself could possibly be a stepping stone to the rarefied air of Flag Officer.

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