Luke Oakley

A Medical Leader In The Making
LT Luke Oakley, MD, Medical Corps, USN

“The opportunities to go beyond your little office practice and periodically go abroad, either in a humanitarian mission or in a facet of supporting an operational command, are unique experiences that you would never ever have as a civilian.”
— LT Luke Oakley, MD, Medical Corps, USN

While Dr. Luke Oakley may have been on his way to becoming a Navy Submarine Officer, his college and Navy experiences changed his mind. “I was a biomedical engineering major in college, and I think through that I developed a greater interest in how we deal with the body when things go wrong,” he says.

So, after earning his degree with honors at Vanderbilt University through an NROTC scholarship, he got permission to set his course on a career in medicine – and to do so with the help of yet another generous Navy scholarship program.

LT Oakley received his medical degree from Georgetown University in 2010, went on to complete an internal medicine internship at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, and is now finishing his residency there. Along the way, he’s made use of one of the best high-tech training tools for when something does go wrong with the body.

“The Simulation Lab (at Naval Medical Center San Diego) is for practicing those times that you never want to see but you have to prepare for,” he explains. “There’s a whole staff and their job is to set up simulations for anything – be it a surgical case…a medical case…a pediatric case…whatever.”

Hoping to next earn internal medicine board certification and with plans to subspecialize in cardiology, LT Oakley enjoys the one-of-a-kind opportunities that practicing in the Navy provides – especially when it comes to leadership.

“Being able to give back to my colleagues is a unique experience,” he says. “For the first time in my career, there are others out there who I can teach.”

LT Oakley explains why that’s so significant. “For success in our field, you can’t just be smart. You have to be smart and able to lead other people as well. We’re ensuring that the people we train in the hospital are effective leaders – that they will then be able to go out and practice independently or practice as the head of a department on a ship or a base somewhere.”

He eagerly awaits such future roles. “In the next five years, I’d really like to serve on a humanitarian mission on board the USNS Mercy. And then, at some point, I hope to and will no doubt serve abroad, either here in a forward-serving hospital or in Afghanistan, supporting an operational command or a smaller hospital throughout the world.”

He continues, “We have bases in Spain and Italy, in Africa and Central America that my peers here at the hospital have been to…and it’s something I really look forward to experiencing.”

Debt Of Gratitude

“I don’t know if I would be a physician, quite frankly, if it had not been for the Navy. They pay full cost of tuition, all mandatory fees, books…they also give you a stipend for living and housing costs.”

I went to a private medical school, which was over $35,000 a year. And the fact that the Navy was covering that and giving me money to live off really took a huge burden off my plate.

Compared to some of my classmates, who are well over a quarter of a million dollars in debt as a result of their education, I have almost no debt.”

— LT Luke Oakley, MD, Medical Corps, USN