It's Match Day! Just a few hours from now, members of our medical school Class of 2016 will open an envelope that reveals their fate for the next few years - whether they'll train as surgeons in Syracuse, dermatologists in Dallas or ophthalmologists right here at UMMC, among a multitude of other possibilities.
In a process that one former class president memorably described as a combination of the “NFL draft and the Academy Awards for nerds,” medical students from around the country have rank-ordered their choices for residency assignments. In turn, residency directors have ranked their preferences for students they'd like to see matriculate into their programs.
A computer in Washington, D.C. does the rest, spitting out a list that pairs students, including married couples, and programs that have expressed a mutual attraction.
And today is the day the results are revealed - not only for our 125 students but for nearly 35,000 of their peers from across the country and from foreign medical schools.
On the stage at Thalia Mara Hall in downtown Jackson, it will be high drama for the students and their gathered family members. As each envelope is opened, most students will be elated. A few will be disappointed. But in the end, I assure you, everybody will be fine.
It's important to keep it all in perspective. A finish line, long dreamed about, is in sight. A new and exciting starting line waits just beyond it.
At this point, I can't reveal any of the details of the Match, other than to say UMMC did well. Our students, collectively, receive choice assignments each year and our residency programs have broad appeal. I'm proud of the quality of education we provide here, not just in medicine but in all our schools.
As we conduct this Match Day, the new medical school building that is taking shape outside my window is just about a year away from completion. When it's finished, we will have the space and equipment needed to continue to grow our class size to 165.
With that growth, we will also need to expand our residency programs to retain these additional graduates in Mississippi. I'm hopeful that Congress will soon respond to the looming national shortage of physicians and lift the two-decades-old cap on residency positions funded by Medicare. More than most states, Mississippi needs these additional resources.
But on this day, my thoughts are about our current students and the glorious future that awaits them. I will never forget my own feelings of joy and gratitude on this day just about 25 years ago.
My main message to our students is this: Wherever you go, whatever you do, you will always be a representative of this medical school. You have made us better, and we will always be grateful for that.
For those of you who pursue residency elsewhere, come back to Mississippi. There is no place in the world that needs your talents more than your home state. And there will be no more satisfying feeling than to join hands with all of us as we build A Healthier Mississippi.