Soldier’s path goes from dental health to mental health

The journey from being one of 13 siblings growing up in the Midwest to becoming one of only 20 in the nation selected annually to attend a prestigious Army social-work program has had more than a few twists and turns for Burgundy Scott. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I was a high-school athlete and received a college scholarship for track and field,” Scott explained. “Due to transferring between school districts, I unfortunately became ineligible to participate in the track season during my senior year and lost my scholarship. My mom didn’t have the means to put us all through college, so I had to find another way.”

She found that other way when a high school classmate invited her to a future-soldier event at a local Army recruiting station.

“My friend’s recruiter told me about the benefits of joining the Army Reserve ‑ the main one being the education benefits that would help me pay for college” she said. “I joined the Army Reserve as a dental specialist and enjoyed it so much, the Army sent me to secure an additional skill for preventive dentistry. Additionally, I obtained my associates degree in health science and started on my bachelors degree.”

After serving eight years in the Army Reserve, Scott decided to make the Army a full-time career. “Unfortunately, the option wasn’t available at the time for medical jobs as they are highly sought after, so I volunteered to be a recruiter in the Active Guard Reserve (AGR) program.”

After earning her bachelors in psychology, she learned about the Army Master of Social Work (MSW) Program that would not only pay for her to get her masters degree, but would make her an Army officer and allow her to serve her fellow soldiers and their families.

“The rewarding part about growing up with that many siblings was there was never a dull moment,” Scott noted. “We played, we fought, we laughed, we cried – but regardless, we always took care of each other. My whole life has been about taking care of people and watching my mom take care of people. I always knew as an adult, whatever career I chose, it would be about the welfare of others.”

What led her to go from working in dental health to mental health? Scott credits the opportunities she had at each stop along the way with leading her to where she is today. “I strongly believe the Army was a driving force in helping me not only decide what my passion was, but I believe the experiences I had in the Army, fostered it as well. The hands-on training, the discipline, the leadership training, opportunities for growth, and the people and mentors I’ve met along the way were instrumental in molding me into who I am,” she added.

Burgundy Scott, posing with her 12 siblings, will be attending a prestigious social work program.
Staff Sgt. Burgundy Scott, (back row right) with her 12 siblings and mother.

“It’s not every day you get to recruit a recruiter, but that’s not what makes this story so special,” said Sgt. 1st Class Shetara Hailey, station commander of the Phoenix Army Medical Recruiting Station and the person helping Scott obtain her slot in the MSW Program. “She had a dream, and she worked hard and took advantage of every opportunity available to make that dream come true. We want only the best healthcare providers to serve our nation’s soldiers and that is what we are getting with Staff Sgt. Scott. She is a fantastic soldier, mother, sibling, and daughter and she is going to be an even better resource for our soldiers and their families.”

Although the first in her family to join the Army, she isn’t the only one now in uniform.

“I joined the Army in 2009 when my little brother was 10,” Scott explained. “I remember the first time he saw me in my uniform, his eyes lit up. He told me he wanted to be a soldier just like me when he graduated high school. He did just that. I was his recruiter and he now serves as an infantryman in the active duty Army.

So where does Scott’s life take her from here? She expects to leave her current assignment with the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion Sept. 15 to attend the Basic Officer Leadership Course and will start her social work journey in January.

“The MSW Program is a 14-month course through the University of Kentucky, followed by a 26-month Social Work Internship Program (SWIP),” she said. “I will commission as a second lieutenant and will complete my 14-month training at the AMEDD Center and School at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. At the completion of the internship, I will become licensed and serve as a social worker in the Army.”

Besides helping others, Scott said she has another motivation that has driven her.

“My greatest decision and accomplishment after joining the Army, was becoming a mother,” Scott stated. “In addition to being called a soldier, I am also called mom by a beautiful 5-year old daughter and 2-year old son. They are my motivation and drive, and I hope this new journey we are about to embark on makes them proud.”

Finally, she offers this advice to others, especially those who live near where she grew up in Elyria, Ohio. “I always thought your passion was something you just stumbled upon, something you had to find. But passion is not found, it’s ignited from the inside out through life experiences,” Scott explained. “From the time I was in your shoes asking the same questions, until now, I have done both internal and external work that has transformed me and ignited my passion. You can do the same. Go different places, do different things and meet different people and never stop improving yourself.”

Student-loan debt or scholarships aren’t the only med school options

Finding ways to pay for medical, dental or veterinary school is challenging and can often result in struggling to make ends meet during school and thousands of dollars of student-loan debt after graduation.

According to healthcare career counselor SSG Trevor Sturgill, with the 6th Medical Recruiting Battalion, there are options available than can provide money to students while attending school and significantly reduce, or eliminate, those financial burdens after they graduate.

stsudent-loan debt

“The first few years after a person graduates from medical school, they are still in learning mode,” Sturgill explained. “They have little control over their career and are just trying to figure out what they have gotten themselves into.”

Sturgill said the Army Medical Corps provide financial relief during that time and will provide additional training and leadership opportunities that aren’t available in the civilian world.

“When you put it all together, getting a stipend while you’re going to school, getting your student-loan debt paid and getting valuable training and experience at the start of your career, in exchange for a few years of service to your country, is a great option for a lot of people,” Sturgill noted.

“Several of these programs are available for Army Reserve service,” he added. “This allows a person to work in a civilian capacity in their own community and serve one weekend a month and for a few weeks during the summer.”

He outlined a few of those programs

“The Medical and Dental Student Stipend Program (MDSSP) provides a monthly stipend of more than $2,400 to individuals accepted into an accredited medical program,” Sturgill said. “The MDSSP commitment is a one-year obligation in the Army Reserve for each six months, or partial six-month period, of financial assistance.”

The Reserve Component Health Professional Loan Repayment Program (RCHPLRP) provides repayment of outstanding student-loan debt up to $250,000, according to Sturgill, while the Specialized Training Assistance Program (STRAP) provides a $2,466 monthly stipend throughout a participant’s residency. In exchange for STRAP benefits, participants serve one year in the Army Reserve for each six months of stipend they receive.

“It’s possible,” Sturgill explained, “to receive both STRAP benefits and the RCHPLRP incentive.”
For those interested in serving full-time, Sturgill said the Army’s Financial Assistance Program(FAP) provides an annual grant of up to $45,000 and a monthly stipend of more than $2,400 in exchange for two years for the first year of FAP participation plus six months of service for each additional six months of benefits.

“The Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program will repay up to $40,000 of qualified loans annually for a maximum of three years” Sturgill explained. “The service obligation is one year for each year of benefits with a minimum period of two years on active duty.”

Bonuses are available as well

But the financial incentives don’t stop there according to Sturgill. The Army also offers bonuses to some qualified candidates.

“Fully-qualified active-duty applicants, who are board certified, are eligible for Board Certification Pay (BCP),” he noted. “That bonus is paid on a prorated monthly basis and officers can receive BCP in addition to other qualifying incentives. In addition, active-duty applicants who possess a current, valid, unrestricted license, are eligible for Health Profession Officer Incentive Pay (IP) in addition to other qualifying incentives.

“It’s easy to understand what student-loan repayment and stipends can mean to a person’s future,” Sturgill said. “But what isn’t easy to understand is what serving as an Army healthcare officer will mean. I can answer questions about the financial programs and what it takes to be considered for an Army healthcare career. Also, I can put them in touch with people who are already serving in their career field who can tell them what it has been like for them.”

Sturgill said those interested can contact him directly with any questions they have about the programs or about Army life. Reach him by text or phone at (702) 908-7463 or by email at

Army chaplains – A hybrid ministry

Rabbis serve in their temples, Imams serve in their mosques, and ministers serve in their churches. While many religious leaders serve within the four walls of their congregation, the Army chaplains are boundless; they serve everywhere in the world!

Army baptism

This unique environment allows chaplains to provide a hybrid ministry, in which they serve Soldiers and their families of all religions (or no religion) through preaching, fellowship, counseling and leadership. Army chaplains play a hybrid role of not only religious leaders in pluralistic environments, but also counselors with listening ears and leaders with a moral compass.

We are endorsed by our distinct faith group and are expected to observe doctrines of our faith while also honoring the rights of others to observe their own faith. While serving our own faith group in the Army, we provide the means for others to observe their own faith in accordance with the United States law.

There are two options for serving as an Army chaplain.

First, active-duty chaplains serve almost every type of unit, including special operations, infantry, aviation, intelligence, hospitals, prisons, cyber, and community ministries. The Chaplain Corps also offers select chaplains advanced graduate degrees and specialized ministries in ethics, world religions, hospital ministry and marriage and family counseling.

Chaplains can be stationed in the United States or in one of 180 countries around the world. Chaplains are also a part of caring for the soldier’s family. Family members often need spiritual encouragement, counseling and prayer. Through leading worship, preaching, administering the sacraments and conducting retreats, chaplains execute a rich and full ministry to the Army.

Army Chaplain

Army chaplains serve in diverse environments, including hospitals, prisons, Special Operations, infantry, and aviation.

Second, the Army Reserve chaplains serve on a part-time basis. The Army Reserve is the part-time force that provides essential capabilities to the Army, giving them added scale and scope to respond to challenges at home and abroad. Chaplains in the Army Reserve pursue a civilian ministry while training near their home and serving their community, spending one weekend a month on duty and two weeks a year in training.

The Army committed to providing spiritual and emotional support to soldiers and their families in peace and war. Chaplains accept the rigors and challenges that come with being in the military, while maintaining a heart full of kindness, compassion and humility.

Chaplains are charged to nurture the living, care for the wounded and honor the fallen.

The Army chaplaincy provides depths of ministry that encompass the highs and lows of human experience and in this ever-changing world, chaplains are a steady presence of the divine, reminding soldiers and their families of the meaning of life that is beyond the uniform.

The author, Michelle Suh, is a chaplain in the United States Army.  She received her Master’s in Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary and has gone on to complete Clinical Pastoral Education at LAC+USC Hospital in Los Angeles, CA, and Dignity Heath Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, CA. She is passionate about helping young ministers explore various sectors of ministry. If you are interested in becoming an Army chaplain or want more information on Army chaplaincy, please contact Chaplain Suh at or 818-307-3591.

UC Riverside students will learn to suture virtually

When Brian Allee, D.O. pulls out his suture kit April 10 in Oklahoma, it won’t be to close an actual wound. He will turn on his camera, turn up his microphone and will teach approximately 60 students in California how to suture virtually.

In addition to his private practice in Pauls Valley, OK. Allee is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. As part of that service, Allee teamed with the 6th Medical Recruiting Battalion’s Santa Ana, Ca. station to serve as the instructor for the event, being sponsored by the Healthy Hearts Club at the University of California, Riverside.

In the past, explained CPT Samantha Hardy, Office in Charge of the Santa Ana station, recruiters have conducted in-person suture clinics for groups of 20 or so students, but this event is a first.

“To have Dr. Allee in Oklahoma teaching a suture class to 60 students in their homes isn’t something we would have ever thought of doing a year and a half ago,” Hardy stated, “but the Army has adapted and if we can help 60 students become healthcare professionals, we are going to find a way to do that.”

Hardy and her team of recruiters are tasked with searching for medical, dental and veterinary students and professionals who are interested in working in the Army or Army Reserve. Teaching classes to college students and providing hospitals with subject matter experts for lectures and classes that provide continuing education credits to their workers are two ways they do that.

“Army healthcare isn’t just about taking care of soldiers on the battlefield or on Army posts,” Hardy noted. “Like Dr. Allee, our Reserve officers take the considerable training and skills they get from the Army back to their community, and Army healthcare officers are always looking for ways to interact with their civilian counterparts for the betterment of both.”

Army’s top dentist visits San Francisco schools

SAN FRANCISCO – Students and administrators at three San Francisco dental schools visited last week with the head of the Army’s Dental Corp, Brig. Gen. Shan Bagby. A few months from retirement, Bagby shared his Army dentist story with the students and gave them tips on how to survive their postgraduate studies and thrive in their chosen careers.

His first stop was the University of the Pacific’s Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. There he spoke with several recipients of the Health Professions Scholarship (HPSP). At the University of San Francisco, Bagby talked with ROTC cadets about leadership and gave them advice on maximizing their training to benefit their career. At the University of California San Francisco, he toured the school’s dental training facility before speaking with a group of approximately 30 dental school students, HPSP recipients and clinical and assistant professors.

At one point, Bagby told his audience they were fortunate to take advantage of the HPSP, which pays their medical school tuition costs and provides a stipend while attending school in exchange for four years of Army service. Bagby, who joined the Army on an ROTC scholarship, joked, “The Army got me super cheap. They only had to pay for four years of college for me.”

The visit came as the Army prepares to launch a two-week effort to reconnect with communities across America with its March to Service campaign later in March.

“Very limited face-to-face contact over the last two years has had an impact on our relationships with our communities,” said Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, who leads the Army’s recruiting effort for both the Regular Army and the Army Reserve.

Studies show that about 75 percent of today’s young people do not fully understand the Army or the careers it offers. The March to Service campaign aims to provide information about the more than 150 different occupations in the Army as well as key benefits of service – to include technical training, 30 days of paid vacation, health care, money for college classes and certifications, family support programs, and even up to $50,000 in bonuses. “We find that people often change their impression of the Army when they are able to talk directly to a Soldier,” Vereen said. “They are able to ask questions and talk about some of the misperceptions they may have about what it’s really like to be a Soldier. Many people truly just don’t understand what we do because they have never had the chance to find out.”

The Army has many opportunities for those wanting to become a dentist as well as for practicing professionals.