And the envelope says... medical students find futures

Monday, March 19, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:00 a.m. CDT, Sunday, June 29, 2008

The first sight of the white envelopes provoked loud cheers in the atrium outside the J. Otto Lottes Health Sciences Library on Thursday, as 88 MU medical students gathered to find out how they will spend the next three to eight years of their lives.

Inside the envelopes were students’ residency assignments. Claire Bolander, who will graduate in May, was just one of approximately 24,000 students across the country matched with training programs as part of the annual Match Day. Bolander is headed to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York to study as an obstetrician/gynecologist.

Students are placed in residency positions by the National Resident Matching Program, which is designed to impartially link medical graduates with positions at teaching hospitals. The results of the program’s computerized algorithm are based on students’ ranking of the hospitals they’re most interested in and the hospitals’ ranking of preferred applicants.

Every physician must complete a residency — three to eight years depending on one’s program — in order to be licensed. Residency training programs are supported through the federal government’s use of Medicare funds, or are paid for by the hospitals. The 2007 class at MU — 95 percent of whom were matched with their first choice of hospitals — represent a diverse interest in medical fields such as opthamology and psychiatry. Nineteen graduates will pursue training in internal medicine and may specialize later in the field. Three members of this year’s class will receive training in family medicine.

Rachel Brown, associate dean for student programs at the MU School of Medicine, likened the Match Day ceremony to students finding out where they will attend college, but said it also represents an important step into the medical profession.

“They’ll be practicing medicine,” Brown said. “They’re supervised, but they’re being physicians.”

Resident positions in areas such as dermatology, plastic surgery and anesthesiology are usually completely or almost completely matched, according to the NRMP. But positions in other specialty areas don’t share the same sort of demand — only 85 percent of positions in family medicine were matched last year.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, medical students make decisions about specializing partly based on the lifestyles associated with each field of medicine. Students from last year’s Match Day “continued to flock to careers that were relatively easy to balance with home life and less likely to involve calls in the middle of the night,” The Chronicle reported.

Brent Benscoter, a fourth-year MU medical student said that while lifestyle was a factor in choosing his specialty, it wasn’t the most important — his past experiences were. Benscoter majored in piano performance as an undergraduate, and his interest in music and hearing will lead him to train as an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Bolander said that she enjoyed her rotation in obstetrics and gynecology and chose her field despite the fact that she expects many long nights delivering newborns in her future.

“Obviously, it would be great if I chose a specialty with a better lifestyle,” she said. “But I have a passion for being an OBGYN.”

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