The U.S. military veteran Dave Manning served two combat deployments in Iraq and was the sole medical provider for more than 100 people on a Navy ship. But as he contemplated his post-military job prospects, he struggled.
“Nothing I’ve done really translates over [to civilian jobs] beyond basic EMT,” said Manning, who served 15 years in the Navy and five more in the Army. “Trying to find something in the medical field without any credentials, without any licensure is tough. There’s nothing out there.”
Manning is in the inaugural class of a physician-assistant training program launched this month by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and geared at recruiting nontraditional students—specifically, veterans—as the country seeks to improve health care by expanding the number of primary-care providers. UNC staff worked with Army officials at Fort Bragg to figure out how to translate troops’ medical experience into jobs.
Manning’s story is becoming more common as the U.S. winds down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it’s especially important for North Carolina, which is home to eight military bases, including some of the country’s largest installations. Manning has experience that can’t be found in a classroom, and some in the UNC medical community wanted to capitalize on that.