133 on a match: Medical students discover their next destinations
Published on Monday, March 19, 2018
By: Gary Pettus
View a photo gallery of Match Day 2018 here.
On one of the most nerve-wracking days of his life, fourth-year medical student Nicholas Gilbert didn’t lose his cool, but he did lose part of his shirt.
As he was getting dressed Friday for the UMMC School of Medicine Residency Match Day 2018, a button broke in half; then another one popped off.
Before the second wardrobe malfunction occurred, he used his sewing skills to replace the first button, joking later that if it ever falls off it will “portend failure” in his chosen specialty. Which is? “General surgery,” he said.
“I think, though, if that’s the worst thing that happens,” he said, referring to his buttons, “I’ll be alright.”
As it turns out, Gilbert and 132 other fourth-year medical students were alright, or even much better than that, after “matching” to one of the residency training programs of their choice in a publicly-viewed event described by Gilbert as “kind of like the NFL draft, except you don’t get a cool hat at the end.”
For those students, Match Day and commencement day in May mark the end of a four-year-long journey that is a prelude to another one lasting about as long, or longer: their time as physicians-in-training.
Although the 133 students were in the spotlight on Friday, “this day belongs to everyone here,” said Dr. Loretta Jackson-Williams, vice dean for medical education, addressing an audience of several hundred support systems at Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson, including the students’ parents, grandparents, cousins, friends and in-laws.
It also belonged, more or less, to a computer algorithm administered by the National Resident Matching Program; it’s used to bring students and training programs together, after the future residents spend months interviewing at hospitals and universities from Boston, Massachusetts to Orlando, Florida, and from Portland, Oregon to Rochester, New York.
Across the country, the NRMP announced, more than 31,000 U.S. applicants, or 94.3 percent, achieved a match.
At UMMC, the 133 matching students represent 21 different specialties, 71 in primary care, with 49 remaining in Mississippi for their training, Jackson-Williams said.
The way Match Day played out here was, as Gilbert suggested, similar to the spectacle of the NFL draft: Members of the Class of 2018 waited for their names to be called in a random drawing; then, one by one, or two by two or more if marriage or significant otherness or children were in the mix, they mounted the auditorium stage, took the microphone and declared their match, a verdict that had been concealed in an envelope, just like at the Oscars.
“‘La La Land’ – Best Picture,” announced Syed Ali, before disclosing his actual award: internal medicine at Loma Linda University in California.
As for Gilbert, when the Jackson resident revealed proudly that he’ll take his talents to LSU Health Science Center in Shreveport, it seemed possible that more of his buttons would pop off.
“It’s quite surreal,” said Justin Dyer of Roxie a couple of hours before he learned he would be a family medicine resident at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg. “It’s realizing that all your hard work here comes to end; and you get to experience this day with family and friends.”
Medical school has been, said Vijay Kannuthurai of Hazlehurst, a “different animal altogether. It’s all kind of a blur. This class has been through a lot together, from the Gross Anatomy lab to parties.
“I believe we’re a tight-knit class, and whatever we’ve done together these four years, it was always a good time,” said Kannuthurai, who will be doing his primary medicine training at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.
Many of the imminent physicians have supported each other for much longer than four years, especially married students like Bret and Ashley Surles of Madison, a couple since high school.
They’ve been spouses since May 2014, just a few months longer than they’ve been medical students. “We’ll be happy wherever we match, as long as we can stay together,” Ashley Surles said, a couple of hours before she and her husband opened their envelopes.
“We’re very anxious, not knowing where we’re going,” Bret Surles said. “We have a job, we just don’t know where.”
“Where” turned out to be here at UMMC – Ashley in obstetrics-gynecology and Bret in pediatrics. It was another of the day’s successful couples’ matches.
In spite of reaching the Match Day milestone, for some students it may be daunting to know that many more years of exams and training lie ahead, said Dr. Jerry Clark, chief student affairs officer and associate dean for student affairs in the School of Medicine.
Instead of “finding one more thing to worry about,” he said to the students on one of the most nerve-wracking days of their lives, when buttons break and friends split off, “don’t forget to laugh along the way.”
“‘This is your time here to do what you will do,’” he said, quoting John Cougar Mellencamp. “‘Your life is now.’”