To view a photo gallery from Match Day 2017, click here.
Years ago, when he was trying to pick a career, Robbie Aru shadowed, among others, a financial analyst, engineer, lawyer and the man who used to sew up his wounds.
On Friday, Robbie Aru made it clear which of those professions, and professionals, meant the most to him when he declared before hundreds of people that he was going to be a surgeon like Dr. Giorgio Aru, his father.
The occasion was Match Day 2017 at Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson, where around 130 other imminent School of Medicine graduates also found out where they “matched” - that is, where they will spend the next few years as physicians-in-training.
In Robbie Aru's case, he will be honing his specialty at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington.
“It's a day a lot of us waited for a long, long time,” Robbie Aru said after meeting up with his family after the ceremony.
Aru announces his residency match: general surgery at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington.
In fact, his brother Marco Aru will wait just one more year himself; an M3, he's part of a family that has worked or studied for decades at UMMC: Jan Aru, their mother is an RN here, while their father, a professor of surgery and chief of thoracic surgery, has been at the Medical Center for more than 20 years.
A native of the Italian island of Sardinia, Giorgio Aru earned his M.D. there at the University of Cagliari before undertaking specialty training at various U.S. universities and institutions, including UMMC, where he completed his cardiothoracic surgery residency in 1998.
“The university has been very good to us,” he said.
When Robbie was growing up and wreaking havoc on sharp nails and fences, he received a lot of stitches in his face and hands -- from the hands of his own father; that's how he first got to know UMMC.
“But we never pushed our sons into medicine,” said Giorgio Aru. “We only asked that they be passionate about whatever they do.”
Celebrating with Robbie are his brother, Marco, second from right, an M3 at UMMC, and his parents, Dr. Giorgio Aru, UMMC professor of surgery and chief of thoracic surgery, and Jan Aru, a UMMC RN in ambulatory surgery.
Passion was certainly on display Friday from many of the members of the Class of 2017; one by one - or often two by two, if married or threatening to be - listened for their names to be called in a random drawing, then walked to the stage and shared their fates with the assemblage of relatives and friends.
Kendra Courtney, for one, had difficulty composing herself as she read aloud her verdict: internal medicine-pediatrics at UMMC, her first choices for specialty and location.
“I was very nervous that I wouldn't get it,” she said afterward. “There were only four spots in internal medicine-peds, and two had already been taken before me. This was a big moment.”
By her side was Dr. Jeremy Courtney, an internal medicine resident - also at the Medical Center. “It was a joy to see her get what she really wanted,” he said. “It's a blessing.”
“And you get to keep your wife,” she replied.
In other words: They will continue training at the same place - something they've been used to for about eight years, ever since both were undergraduates at Alcorn State University and Kendra was Jeremy's tutor in one of the sciences.
“He got an 'A',” she said, “so I guess I was awesome.”
Kendra Courtney is overwhelmed by good news: She matches at the Medical Center -- her first choice -- in internal medicine-pediatrics -- also her first choice. Standing beside her, her husband Dr. Jeremy Courtney approves.
Versions of the scene in Jackson were repeated across the country Friday on what was officially known as the National Resident Matching Program 2017 Main Residency Match. At 28,849, the number of first-year residency positions set a record; more than 27,600 of those were filled, and nearly 80 percent of those who matched were awarded one of their top three ranked choices, reported the NRMP.
As for this School of Medicine, close to 40 percent, or 52, of those who matched, will stay in Mississippi, at least for the first year.
As for the others, Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, urged them to consider returning to Mississippi eventually.
“No matter where you do your residency, there is no other place in this country where you are needed more than you are needed here,” she said, addressing the students Friday.
This year, the graduating class bestowed the traditional honor of drawing the first name on medical student Wood Dale, who, at one point, interrupted his studies for military service.
In an emotion-filled speech, Dale spoke to his fellow students from the stage: “It's not how smart you are … it's how much you care for the person beside you … and y'all get that, even at this young age.”
M4 class president Brock Banks, who delivered the opening, welcome speech, noted that this year's rite of passage fell on St. Patrick's Day. “May you find your pot of gold,” he said, “at the end of your Match Day rainbow.”
Brock Banks announces his match in family medicine at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg while his wife, Mary, and their child look on.