There are a few rites of passage in medical school that stand out in the memory of any physician. The acceptance letter. The first day of gross anatomy. The first real patient. The White Coat Ceremony. The Long Coat Ceremony. Graduation.
But for sheer drama and excitement, Match Day is, well, unmatched.
As most everybody reading this knows, Match Day is the third Friday in March, when medical students all over the country open envelopes to reveal where and in what specialty they'll be pursuing residency training after graduation.
In medicine's version of computer dating, students rank their choices for residency assignments based on visits they've taken during the previous months. In turn, residency program directors rank their preferences of students they'd like to see matriculate to their programs. A computer in Washington, D.C. compiles the results.
This year, all lists (the students' and the programs') were submitted Feb. 22. Our Match Day ceremony was last Friday in downtown Jackson's Thalia Mara Hall. For a photo gallery of the event, click here.
Our medical students have performed well in the match through the years, and 2017 was no exception. In all, 135 students - the most ever for us - participated in the initial match, and 127 were successfully placed, a 94 percent rate that mirrored the national average. Students who don't match initially go through a supplemental process during the days before Match Day, and our students did fine in that as well.
Just as important, on the other side of the match our programs did well, with all of our categorical residency programs filling all available slots.
Seventy of our students will be training in primary care as defined by the Association of American Medical Colleges. That's important because we continue to have a shortage of primary care physicians nationally and in Mississippi.
At the same time, the choices our students make always reveal something about the relative success our clinical departments have in influencing career choices. Notable this year are surgery, emergency medicine and psychiatry.
Fifty-two of our 135 students will be staying in Mississippi to do their training. This number has stayed relatively constant through the years, even as our class size has grown.
The vast majority of those leaving Mississippi are staying close to home - in the southeastern states and Texas. California, Washington, Illinois and New Jersey are some of the other destinations.
Wherever our graduates go for residency, my message every year is always the same: Come back to Mississippi because we need you.
Our state is still in last place at 185 physicians per 100,000 residents, compared to the national median of 251 per 100,000. But we are inching up. In the fall of 2004 our class size was 100; next fall we will enroll 155.
We do a good job of retaining our graduates. We rank fourth in keeping our medical school graduates in Mississippi and 13th in retaining our residents. If we keep doing what we're doing, the gap in physician supply between Mississippi and everybody else should continue to narrow.
I want to congratulate our senior medical students on a successful Match Day and thank our faculty and medical school leadership for all they do - and it's a lot - to keep our school's performance at a high level. It will take that much and more to reach A Healthier Mississippi.