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Meharry grads match with top hospitals

 
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7:00 A.M. EST March 26, 2010 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

Allison McDaniel 
celebrates getting her first choice on Match Day 2010 at Meharry Medical
 College. UMNS photos by Ronny Perry.
Allison McDaniel celebrates getting her first choice on Match Day 2010 at Meharry Medical College. UMNS photos by Ronny Perry. View in Photo Gallery

More than 80 impeccably dressed young men and women—and their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, cousins, spouses, children, friends—started filling the auditorium an hour before the appointed time.

They waited politely through the invocation, opening remarks and a slideshow of their years at Meharry Medical College. They had a hard time, but managed to stay in their seats until their names were called and they walked to the podium to get a sealed envelope.

But once the seal was broken, all bets were off. People cried, hugged, shouted, danced and praised God as they read a few lines on a folded sheet of paper that told them where they would be living and working for the next several years.

Match Day is a rite of passage for those who have completed four years of medical school and applied for residency program in a teaching hospital around the country.

“This is a day you will never forget,” said Dr. Wayne J. Riley, president of the United Methodist-related, historically black medical college. “I still remember mine like it was yesterday.”

Special calling

Alisha D. King adds a
 pushpin to a map where she will begin her career as a physician.
Alisha D. King adds a pushpin to
a map where she will begin
her career as a physician.
View in Photo Gallery

For 2010, more than 15,000 medical school graduates in the U.S. were competing for training positions at teaching hospitals. Acceptance into one of the programs is the culmination of years of hard work and months of applying, visiting, interviewing and worrying.

Hopefully and carefully, each student makes their first, second and third choices.

A computer program takes the names and choices and matches them to hospitals with openings. Riley compared it to a computer dating service.

Somehow, most get their first choice.

Dr. Billy R. Ballard, interim senior vice president for health affairs and dean of the medical school, beamed with pride as he looked out on the auditorium.

“Our residents are in competition with residents all over the U.S.,” he said. The national average of medical students who receive a match is 93 percent. Meharry had 92 percent of their residents get a match.

“We are right there in the mix with everyone else in the country,” Ballard said. “One measurement of the success of a medical school is the degree to which its graduates are able to earn their preferred choices in the match.”

Overwhelming relief

The enormity of the day produced many tearful testimonies. Over and over again, students said, “Meharry took a chance on me when no one else would.”

Dana Parker dries his
 tears after he reads which medical residency program has accepted him 
for the next several years.
Dana Parker dries his tears after he reads which medical residency program has accepted him for the next several years.
View in Photo Gallery

Jonathan Laymance, president of the class of 2010, said, “Our childhood dreams are coming true, we are about to cross the finish line as physicians.”

Arnold Henry, who graduated last year, got a match with the class of 2010.

Henry told a story of personal struggles that included being part of a gang in junior high school, losing his mother to cancer and surviving cancer himself.

“I don’t take this moment lightly,” he said. “I don’t take this moment lightly at all because I didn’t know whether this moment would come. I’m telling you, God works miracles, and it’s a miracle I’m here today.”

A tale of two United Methodists

Waiting to hear their destinies were two United Methodist women and their families.

Shamita M. Williams, a petite woman dressed in a mauve silk suit, quietly walked to the podium followed by her husband, 6-year-old son, and her brother. She knew what she wanted to say.

“This has been a long time coming for me, too,” she said to her fellow classmates, unfolding a prepared speech. She listed each professor who helped her along the way and told them, “I am so in love with the world of medicine because of you.”

Shamita M. Williams 
said opening the letter on Match Day at Meharry Medical College was a 
tremendous moment of relief.
Shamita M. Williams said opening the letter on Match
Day at Meharry Medical College was a tremendous
moment of relief. View in Photo Gallery

After speaking for a few moments, she turned the podium over to her husband.

Kevin Williams told the gathering his father was a 1969 graduate of Meharry. “I have always said my dad was the best doctor in the world; in a few months that will change.”

The Williamses, lifelong United Methodists, pledged Meharry would receive their “gifts, tithes and offerings.

“What you get from the Williams family is our undying support,” said Kevin Williams.

Allison McDaniel—a newlywed married to a doctor in his first year of medical residency in Alabama—was surrounded by her family, who drove from Pensacola, Fla., to stand by her side.

McDaniel and her husband, Will Bolton, held their breath as she opened the envelope.

“I’m matched with Will,” she said, crying. “I’m going to South Alabama.”

“We have never lived in the same house for more than three or four weeks,” Bolton said after the ceremony. “This finally ends three years of long-distance relationship.”

“We are very proud of our daughter and her husband,” said her mother, Terrie McDaniel. “We are beaming with happiness,” agreed her father, Charlie. “My dad was a United Methodist pastor. It meant a lot to us she was going to a United Methodist college.”

Legacy of caring

Meharry Medical College is the nation’s largest private, historically black academic health center. It was founded in 1876 with $30,000 from Samuel Meharry, who remembered a promise he made to a black family who helped him in his time of need.

Nearly 20 percent of African-American physicians and 30 percent of African-American dentists practicing in the U.S. are alumni of Meharry Medical College. More than 70 percent of Meharry’s graduates practice in underserved communities. The college is also a leader in research to eliminate diseases that disproportionately affect racial minorities.

“This is a special calling very few of us in society are given,” said Riley. “That is why I refer to what we do as physicians as a priestly function.”

Riley told the graduates that three days would be important in their lives: Match Day, graduation day and the first day of their internships.

“Take a deep breath and take it all in. Those initials that you are going to be putting behind your name from now on mean more than medical doctor. They mean ‘make a difference.’”

*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

UMTV: Meharry Doctors' Match Day

Allison McDaniel, Meharry Medical College 2010: “I’m thankful Meharry gave me a chance.”

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