There were 1,000 seats at the Jackson Convention Complex for Friday's School of Medicine Match Day 2015, and a large chunk of them were filled by Eric and Heather McDonald's children.
All six of them. Ranging in age from 8 years to eight weeks, they may not have known exactly why they were there, but the oldest knew this much, McDonald said: "It's a special day for daddy."
It was a special day for hundreds of dads, moms, grandparents, siblings and others - but, most of all, for the fourth-year medical students who, like McDonald, learned where they'll complete their medical education as residents training in 21 different specialties, such as pediatrics, surgery, emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine and more.
"It feels like it's been a long time coming," said McDonald, who lives in Florence and grew up in Clinton. "But it's been different from what I expected - I knew there would be all the excitement, but then I realized that a bunch of close friends are about to get dispersed across the country."
Nationwide, more than 27,000 first-year residency positions were filled simultaneously in this year's Main Residency Match involving the nation's 141 medical schools. Almost 35,000 U.S. and international students applied, reported the Association of American Medical Colleges. UMMC's Match Day list included more than 120 names.
John Bridges, senior class president, acknowledged that Match Day is steeped in emotion and suspense. "For a lot of us, this is our first job offer," he said to the convention center crowd.