Loved ones help students re-center on match day

Loved ones help students re-center on match day


JACKSON  –When medical students Austin and Anna Lauren Winter woke up Friday morning, they weren’t sure where they would be spending the next few years of their married lives.

But they knew they would spend them together, and that was enough.

“Knowing we would be in the same place eased some of the stress,” Austin Winter said.

Because, let’s face it, in the quadrennial crucible that is medical school life, there aren’t too many things more stressful for seniors than Match Day – the day they find out where they will train in the specialty 

On Friday, more than 150 students from the medical school class of 2022 at UMMC discovered their respective fates written either in an email they opened late that morning or inside an envelope they unsealed at Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson as their loved ones applauded, cheered and, probably, gave silent thanks.

Merideth Cobb of Columbus, whose 5-year-old daughter Elizabeth was with her taking it all in, went the email route, reading her match shortly before the Match Day ceremony began: “Internal medicine at UMMC,” she said.

“I opened it while I was having brunch with my family,” she said.

Like many other medical school families, hers might have entertained the notion that they have just been through medical school, too, more or less.

Addressing the loved ones directly, before the match results were announced, Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, thanked them for what they had been through the last four years for their students and for “all that you have poured into them. We are so very grateful to their family, their friends and supporters.”

Unlike last year’s pandemic-restricted Match Day, the students’ loved ones were able to attend this year’s occasion in person.

“You get part of the credit for this, too,” Woodward said to the hundreds on hand, and the applause she received said they couldn’t have agreed more.

Known officially as the Match Day for the 2022 National Resident Matching Program Main Residency Match, Friday was the summit of a week that began when the students learned on Monday that they had matched … somewhere.

Before they mounted the stage in Thalia Mara Hall, either singly or in couples like the Winters, and told the world where somewhere is, Woodward assured them that “when this is all said and done … you’re all going to a lot of great places.”

Those places ranged compass-wide, from Los Angeles to Boston, from Tampa to Washington, D.C.; but around 40 percent of those who matched are remaining in Mississippi, with most of those training at the Medical Center.

All of these students were part of a Main Residency Match for graduates from the U.S. and other countries, with 39,205 total positions, the largest number on record, reported the NRMP. They will now take on such specialties as internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, family medicine, gerontology, surgery, ophthalmology, emergency medicine, neurology and more.

Nationwide, more than 94 percent of those positions were filled, including a certain internal medicine spot at UMMC – by Anna Lauren Winter of Jackson; and one in neurological surgery – by Austin Winter of Greenville, her husband.

Cheering for them in the audience were their parents and Austin’s grandmother. For the Winters, and many of their classmates, it was a day to share with kin.

“After this is over,” Anna Lauren said earlier, “we’re going to a cookout at my parents’ house.”

Rodney Kipchumba of Ridgeland also paid tribute to one of his loved ones: girlfriend Lauren Corby, who had to be out of town for the first three days of Match week.

“During those days, leading up to Match Day, she would contact me daily  and let me know where to find one of the notes she had left in my apartment, said Kipchumba, who will do a preliminary year at UMMC before moving on to Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, as an anesthesiology resident.

“Each note told me where I would find a gift she had hidden for me.” For instance, there was a tracking device for finding misplaced objects, and a “survival packet” of treats, including Airheads, said Kipchumba, recounting this act of tension-relieving thoughtfulness.

“I was also able to spend time before Match Day with tons of loved ones and my friends, hanging out,” said Kipchumba, who was born in Kenya. “They’re not in medical school, and I’ve been relying on them to help me re-center. I’ve had a lot of support while I’ve been here. I’m honored to be in Mississippi.

“I say that I’m from Kenya, but I’m also from Jackson, Mississippi. I love this place.”

As does Tyler Sullivan of Louisville (emergency medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham). “I love this state,” he said, holding his nearly 11-month-old son Ty as wife Chrissy Sullivan looked on.

“I plan to practice in this state. I think it will be valuable to be trained first in another state, broaden my perspective, and bring it back here.”

For him, the Match Day tension had not been all it’s cracked up to be. What nervousness he had, Sullivan said, wasn’t for himself, but for others close to him. “I was more nervous for my friends and classmates than for me, hoping they would get what they want today.”

One long-time member of the medical school family who could not attend was Virginia Covington, the former project manager in the School of Medicine, who, at 66 passed away in January, about nine months after her she had retired following decades of service at UMMC.

In attendance, though, as announced by JoJo Dodd of Picayune, senior class president, were her daughters, Anita East of Mendenhall, and Christina McAlpin of Madison, as well as John Covington, Virginia’s husband, who was invited there to draw the name of the first student to be called up to the podium that day.

In this way, Dodd said, the Class of 2022 had chosen to honor Virginia Covington, who had been, for the medical students, a “surrogate mom.”

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