Going to medical school just because you have brains is like running a marathon just because you have muscles.
Without motivation and desire, you'll probably collapse long before the finish line.
No one knows this better than members of UMMC's School of Medicine Class of 2016, who reach a personal and professional milestone on Friday: Residency Match Day.
Starting at 11 a.m. in Jackson's Thalia Mara Hall, the ubiquitous medical school ritual reveals to these imminent graduates where they'll spend the next several years of their lives as they train for a specialty.
Among them are Nicholas Chamberlain, and a married couple, Eden and Sam Yelverton: three future residents whose inspiration to earn an M.D. at one time lay buried under layers of self-doubt or denial or lack of dedication.
No one would question their commitment now.
Nicholas Chamberlain of Jackson, who finishes medical school in May, discovered his passion for medicine through his own family's experiences with illness.
Nicholas Chamberlain was no more than 4 when he heard he was going to be a doctor. This baffled him then and in the years to come.
“I didn't really know what that meant,” he said. “I didn't know any doctors.”
Still, the person who made the prediction, Mattie Kelly, was not someone you dismissed lightly. She was his grandmother, a woman whose character was as strong as her body was weak.
In fact, Chamberlain's mother, Jean Chamberlain, moved her family from Columbus to Jackson in 1999 to take care of her. She was faithful to her mom in other ways as well. When it came to her son's future, Jean Chamberlain was on board with Mattie Kelly's prophecy.
“For one thing, she pushed me to go to math and science camps,” Nicholas Chamberlain said.
Her insistence paid off. Chamberlain excelled at Jim Hill High School, rising to battalion commander of Jackson Public Schools' Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. He was also a member of the International Baccalaureate Program. He was accepted to Brown University, where he studied for a bachelors' degree in human biology.
It was in his third year at the Providence, Rhode Island school that he fully embraced his destiny. “That's when I made a conscious decision to go to medical school,” he said.
But other factors shaped his decision subconsciously. Among them was watching many of his relatives suffer from illnesses. Lingering in the back of his mind was something his mom had once said to him: “It was time for me to step up to the plate and help all these people who had supported me.”
Eventually, Jean Chamberlain became sick as well. If her son still had doubts about becoming a doctor, his reticence vanished in the fog of this family crisis.
“I was in medical school when my sister and I took care of my mom. It was an experience that you can't get from textbooks,” he said.
“There wasn't a whole lot sleeping then. It was always something. But you never know how strong you are until you have to be that way.”
During this time he learned what being a physician really meant, or what it means to him: “It's not just giving out medicine. It's showing compassion, not just to the patient, but also to the patient's family.
“I was able to explain to my own family what was going on with their treatment. Otherwise, they're just left in the dark. I don't think anyone expects doctors and nurses to work miracles, but they do want you to keep them in the loop.”
As a physician, whenever he sees a patient, he'll picture his mom; he'll picture his grandmother. “I'll think, 'This is someone's mother, this is someone's child. How would you want your mother to be treated?'”
Chamberlain plans to do his residency in internal medicine. But his grandmother and mom won't be there for his graduation in May. Mattie Kelly passed away right after he finished high school. Jean Chamberlain passed away about a year ago.
“They won't see me walk across the stage; that's the hardest part of all this,” he said, “but that confirms that this is what I need to do.”
Eden and Sam Yelverton, who are from medical families, discovered their love of medicine by watching their fathers' relationships with patients.
Eden Johnston, the daughter and granddaughter of two family doctors, didn't know what she was going to be; she just knew what she wouldn't be: a doctor.
“My dad, who's a physician in a small town, worked all the time. Many times, he was absent or had to leave different events in my life due to his work,” she said. “When you're a child, you want your dad to be there. I could not understand that sacrifice, why the job was so worth it.”
Sam Yelverton, the son and grandson of two general surgeons, thought becoming a physician “might be a good idea.” His grades during his first semester at Mississippi College said otherwise.
It was as students at Mississippi College that Eden, of Mt. Olive, and Sam, of Jackson, met and fell in love - thanks to organic chemistry. Eventually, they were married - in medical school.
Apparently, when it came to their chosen careers, something had changed Eden's mind and Sam's motivation. In each case, it was this: a taste of their dad's medicine.
“My grades in college were not good at first,” Sam Yelverton said. “Then I saw my first surgery.”
The surgeon was someone he knew well: “My dad operated on a patient who had cancer; a week later, I got to see him give the family the news: the cancer was gone. They were so relieved, they broke down.
“This person got a second chance at life. It still gives me chill bumps. I thought, 'This is what I get to do? This is awesome.'
“From then on, it was all A's.”
Eden, who shadowed her dad at his family medicine clinic in Mt. Olive, finally understood his sacrifice; she discovered why the job was worth it, and what he meant to people of the town she grew up in. “Of course, it's about serving people through science, through medicine,” she said, “but you're also serving them at the scariest time of their life.
“It's being there for them in a way you cannot in most professions. My dad has impacted many people in my hometown and the area around it.” Seeing this, she knew what she wanted to do.
Sam and Eden Yelverton entered medical school together; they were engaged their first year and married during their second, on Dec. 28, 2013, during Christmas break and long after they had realized, as Sam Yelverton put it, “we couldn't do anything else but this.” As much or more than anyone else, two people were responsible for this epiphany.
So, two months from now, during a commencement day ritual, Dr. Richard Yelverton Jr. of Ridgeland, a general surgeon, will place a hood over future surgeon Sam Yelverton, his son; and Dr. Word Johnston of Mt. Olive will hood future OB-GYN Eden Johnston Yelverton, his daughter.