April 16, 2012


Dean Ray Watts addresses the audience on Match Day. Click to see a slideshow of photos from the event.

Aside from commencement, the most exciting day on our School of Medicine calendar for our students and their families may be Match Day—the day in March when all fourth-year students find out where they will go for their residency training. In the moment our students open their envelopes, they see not only the culmination of years of hard work and dedication, but also a preview of their future as a physician.

It’s a moment I remember well. I had considered studying a number of specialties at several medical centers around the country, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the opportunities and possibilities of each option in the days leading up to Match Day. When I finally learned the result—internal medicine and neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital—I was very pleased, but perhaps more relieved that the suspense was over.

Modern Match

Today’s match is different in many ways. Students submit their rank-order list on a Web site, and the competition for residencies is tighter. This year, more than 38,000 applicants tried to secure fewer than 27,000 positions. Our Match Day celebration has become bigger as well, and it is even broadcast live on the Internet. (See the complete video here.) Despite these advances in technology, and perhaps because of the increased competition for residency slots, the students taking part in this rite of passage feel the same anticipation, excitement, and relief that we did.

UAB Class of 2012
Top Specialties on Match Day
46% Primary Care
21% Surgical Subspecialties
10% General Surgery
7%   Anesthesiology
4%   Ob/Gyn

I am very proud of how well our graduating class performed in the match. Ninety-six percent of the 176 students matched, and they will be working in 26 states across the country. I am especially pleased that 46 percent of the class will pursue training in primary care, with another 10 percent focusing on general surgery. Both fields are facing a shortage of physicians, particularly in rural parts of Alabama and the South, and one of our missions is to encourage and prepare more students to help meet the pressing needs of these patients. Forty-two percent of our graduates will do their residencies in Alabama, and 74 percent will stay in the Southeast.

Welcoming New Residents

Match Day also means that we will be welcoming a new group of residents to UAB from all over the country in just a few months, and we want to make them feel at home as they settle into their residencies and new communities in Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery, Selma, and Tuscaloosa.

Some of those residents will be joining a new internal medicine residency program at our Huntsville Regional Medical Campus that we will operate with Huntsville Hospital. Eight first-year and eight second-year residents will begin training there in July as we take steps toward an ultimate goal of 24 physicians. Together with our Huntsville family practice residency program, we will have 60 physicians in training in north Alabama, which will provide additional resources to serve the needs of a growing community and surrounding rural areas.

Showcase of Creativity


Students earn laughs—and funds for Equal Access Birmingham—at the Best Medicine Show. Click to see a photo slideshow from the night.

Recently our students came together for another major event with none of the anxiety of Match Day—unless they suffered from stage fright.

The Best Medicine Show, on March 2, is the updated version of Skit Night, an annual student tradition at the School of Medicine for more than two decades. I was delighted by the show, which featured filmed skits along with live musical acts, dancing, and other performances at the beautiful and historic Alabama Theater. We have a group of truly talented students, and I thoroughly enjoyed this showcase of their creativity.

All of the fun served a serious purpose. The Best Medicine Show is the chief fundraising event for Equal Access Birmingham, the School of Medicine student organization that provides free care to underserved patients in neighborhoods throughout our community. This year the students raised $31,000, which the SOM will match dollar for dollar, totaling $62,300. I want to commend them on their achievement in organizing such an entertaining and successful event and for committing the proceeds to such a great cause.

Springboard for Success

As our students become physicians, they will experience many more memorable days full of great accomplishments, and I hope they will look back on the School of Medicine as a springboard for their success. If you know one of these students, support them in this next phase of their education, and encourage them to stay involved with the school throughout their careers. By sharing their feedback and support, they can help future generations of students, physicians, and patients experience great days, too.



Senior Vice President for Medicine
Dean, School of Medicine
James C. Lee Jr. Endowed Chair