Medical students unseal their fate on 'Match Day'

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 24, 2014 

There is no place like home for Arshia Khan.

More than 18,000 senior medical students across the nation experienced "Match Day" on March 21. That's when they discovered where they will spend the next three to seven years doing their residency training.

When Khan opened the envelope that held the details of her future, she was delighted to find she will be staying in Columbus.

"It was a big relief," said Khan, who will spend her residency in family medicine with Columbus Regional Health at Midtown Medical Center.

Khan is among the first group of medical students of the Columbus campus of the Mercer University School of Medicine to participate in the match.

She is one of a class of 14 fourth-year medical students who began their clinical training in Columbus in June 2012. They'll officially become doctors at spring commencement.

The students have trained in collaboration with Columbus Regional Health, St. Francis Hospital and numerous physician practices in this area.

Born in Arkansas, she has lived in Columbus since she was three years old. She is a graduate of Pacelli and Columbus State University.

While she would have moved to another city for training, a move would have been difficult since she and her husband have three children, two of whom attend Britt David Magnet Academy.

"The moving is easier for those who are single or just married," she said. "Some people put in for places like Hawaii."

For her first years of classroom work at Mercer, she commuted from Columbus to Macon, Ga., and was glad to see that end.

Looking forward to the next step in their medical training, senior medical students begin the interview process with prospective hospital residencies in October and the interview season lasts until February. Students then rank their desired programs and submit their lists to the National Residency Matching Program.

Residency programs also submit their ranking of students to the NRMP.

A sophisticated computer program then matches students to residencies.

The matches are then placed in sealed envelopes, which are opened at the same time by students. Khan said that some students don't get their first choice but that "everybody puts on a happy face."

Some don't get a match at all and have to wait a full year. "That is the worst thing," she said.

Khan would not say what she had for other choices but that they were in the southeast. A student usually puts four to five hospitals on their list.

"You can't put all your eggs in one basket," she said.

Khan said she is looking forward to doing family medicine because it deals with a variety of ailments and also a mixture of people, from children to the elderly.

Her mother was a physician for 25 years on Fort Benning. Khan said students wishing to practice in certain fields can find it tougher getting a residency.

"I think there are only about 20 programs in the country for radiation oncology," she said.

Khan said that while some students make their choice by geography, some pinpoint specific hospitals. For example, some famous Mayo Clinic hospitals may have 800 applications for 10 spots.

Dr. Butch Wolff of St. Francis Hospital called the process "very competitive," especially for those trying to get into prestigous training programs.

Wolff and Dr. John Bucholtz of Columbus Regional Health are the medical directors for the Columbus campus of Mercer Medical School.

He called match day "exciting" as the first students found out their fate.

"Everybody seemed to be pleased," he said. "It was all good news."

He said the Mercer students here have done well on school-wide and national exams and the Columbus program, in its infancy, is moving forward with talk of expansion. He said Mercer is currently in the interviewing process for a full-time associate dean for the Columbus campus.

"That is more good news," Wolff said.

Bucholtz said the new dean will "strengthen the program." He added that the collaboration between Midtown Medical Center and St. Francis has been "seamless."

He called match day exciting and said the Mercer students got into some quality programs.

"We had a vested interest in seeing that everything got off on the right foot," he said. "These students in our program are pioneers."

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