UAB again strong on medical school Match Day

UAB medical students excel at Match Day, when graduating seniors learn where and in what specialty they’ll do their residency training.

The 2012 graduating class of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine enjoyed a strong showing at Match Day, with 96 percent matching in a post-graduate position to complete their medical education. This was one of the most competitive Match Days ever, with more than 38,000 applicants vying for fewer than 27,000 positions.

Match Day is when graduating seniors at U.S. medical schools learn where they will conduct their residency training and in which field. Match Day, coordinated by the National Resident Matching Program, involves approximately 16,000 U.S. medical school seniors and another 22,000 graduates of osteopathic or foreign medical schools.

UAB increased the size of its medical school classes by 10 percent in 2006 following a call from the Association of American Medical Colleges and the federal government to increase enrollment to meet an expected future need for more doctors. The 2012 class, which matched 176 graduates, is the third since that increase; however, the number of available residency positions has grown more slowly, increasing the competition for each available position.

One of the missions of the UAB School of Medicine is to produce primary-care physicians to help offset an impending shortage, especially in the rural South. Forty-six percent of the UAB Class of 2012 will do residency training in one of the primary-care fields, up from 43 percent last year.

General surgery is another field with an expected shortage, and 10 percent of UAB graduates will pursue residency training in general surgery, with 21 percent doing residencies in one of the other surgical subspecialty fields.

Laura Kezar, M.D., associate dean for students, said boosting the number of primary-care physicians within the state of Alabama is another of the school’s foremost missions. Forty-two percent of graduates in all specialties will remain in the state for residency training, and 78 percent will conduct their training somewhere in the Southeast, topping last year’s numbers of 41 percent remaining in Alabama and 74 percent in the Southeast.

“Studies have shown that physicians tend to establish their practices in the region or state in which they conduct their residency training,” said Kezar.

Overall, UAB’s graduates will do residencies in 26 states across the nation. Eight percent are going into emergency medicine, 7 percent into anesthesiology and 4 percent into obstetrics and gynecology.

Ezinne Okwandu will be heading to the University of Texas-Houston in radiology. “It’s been nerve-wracking,” she said. “I’ve not eaten in three days. Next I’ll be finishing up my studies here, signing contracts and finding a place to live.”

Following graduation from medical school, new physicians spend at least three years in a residency program, receiving advanced training in their chosen field. Fourth-year medical school students across the country apply to their desired residency programs through the National Resident Matching Program and receive their acceptances on Match Day, begun in 1952.