MCG medical students open residency letters

John French took off his Star Wars stormtrooper helmet, looked at the letter in his hand, and reared back to yell, "Vandy! Whooo!"


Match Day at Medical College of Georgia sparks a lot of celebrations -- and brings out some odd quirks -- from senior medical students. Thursday, this year's seniors were called up one by one to get letters telling them where they will spend the next three to seven years in residency training, learning their specialties.

At MCG it is a loud, raucous party, with each name greeted by cheers and encouragement and often followed by peals of joy once the choice is revealed.

Most of the students adopted a marathon theme, of headbands and running clothes, a play off the admonition they got during orientation from Vice Dean Ruth Marie Fincher that they were "starting a marathon not a sprint."

French, who will be studying internal medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, decided to be a little different.

"I think it's every little kid's dream to dress up like a stormtrooper at some point," he said.

And why not, on a day when many dreams came true?

Frank Stegall Jr.'s letter telling him he got his top choice of studying general surgery, also at Vanderbilt, touched off a chain reaction of tears, first from his wife, Natalie, and then from his mother, Rebecca.

"I'm so happy for you," his mother said, barely audible above the cheers.

Shannon Myers was so confident she would get to stay at MCG, her first choice, that she wrote "Augusta" on a sheet pinned to her shirt. And it is fitting because the reason she is going into pediatrics is the people she met at MCG Children's Medical Center.

"The program here is so strong, it's attractive to many of us," she said.

About 37 percent of her classmates went into primary care residencies such as pediatrics, while nationally more U.S. medical students chose primary care residencies, including a slight increase in pediatrics, the Association of American Medical Colleges noted.

Why there was an increase in pediatrics is a mystery but a welcome one, said Mona M. Signer, the executive director of the National Resident Matching Program at AAMC, which conducts the match.

As the MCG students got their match letters, "they're about to finish their medical school marathon," said Fincher, a marathon runner herself. "I need to tell you, you are about to begin the next phase of your professional development, which, my colleagues, is an ultramarathon."

Why is it called Match Day?

Senior U.S. medical students visit various programs in the specialties they want to pursue after graduation, then rank their choices. Their picks go to a computer at the National Resident Matching Program, where they are compared with the preferred lists of students submitted by the programs to come up with the best "match." This year, more than 16,000 U.S. students participated in the Match, according to the matching program.