Julia Carper fell in love twice during clinical rotations in her third year of medical school at the Medical College of Georgia. Once was with her fianc, Jim Combs. The other was with obstetrics and gynecology, despite the field's reputation for hard work and hefty malpractice insurance premiums.
"I fell in love with it, with the patient population," said Ms. Carper, 28. "For the OB part of it, it's a generally happy, healthy environment. And you're a big part of people's lives."
She is among a surprisingly large group of 11 fourth-year MCG students who will be looking for OB/GYN residencies during Match Day on Thursday, when medical students across the country learn where they will complete the next phase of their training.
Though nationally the number of OB/GYN residency slots available has stayed about the same over the past few years, the number of U.S. medical students filling them has declined, from 840 in 2000 to 743 last year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The rest are taken by graduates of foreign medical schools. Because of new residency rules, many of those international doctors will not be able to stay after their training, which would further deplete the supply, said Lawrence Devoe, the chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at MCG.
"There is a great potential for a shortage of OB/GYNs in the foreseeable future," he said.
Before this year, MCG had seen a four-year decline in the number of its students going into OB/GYN. The department has worked diligently to reach out to those interested in the field and help them experience it, Dr. Devoe said. That includes sending students into the state to learn at the elbow of community physicians, he said.
"They got to really see how OB people live," Dr. Devoe said.
Working with an OB in Canton, Ga., is what hooked Nicole Baumgarten, 27.
"My first delivery was just so amazing and so incredible," she said. "For me, I can't imagine anything that is more rewarding."
And it looks as though MCG's success will continue. Fourteen students in the next class already are committed to OB/GYN, Dr. Devoe said.
A recent move by the Georgia Legislature to cap some malpractice damages is also helpful, Ms. Carper said. But in the greater scheme of things, passion for the profession will overcome any trepidations, she said.
"It never made me look at it twice because I knew what I wanted to do," she said.
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Fourth-year students at the Medical College of Georgia will join hundreds of thousands nationwide who will participate Thursday in Match Day, when the students find out where they will continue their training in residency programs