DO school to graduate first class; residencies start this summer

by George Jared ([email protected]) 1,274 views 

The spring of 2020 will largely be remembered as the time of COVID-19.

Nearly every high school and college graduation is in danger of being canceled, including the inaugural class of doctors that were trained on the Arkansas State University campus. They may not walk in a formal ceremony, but each member of the class will hit the ground running as their residencies begin this summer.

Arkansas’ first osteopathic medical school participated in the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) for the first time this spring and New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) at Arkansas State University was pleased with the results. Of NYITCOM at A-State students who participated in the 2020 Match, 95% received placement into programs. The school is slated to graduate 97 students this spring.

“This is our first class to move into specialty training,” Shane Speights, DO Dean of NYITCOM at A-State told Talk Business & Politics. “It takes a special group of students to commit to being part of the inaugural class of a new medical school. These students trusted us to provide them with a top-notch medical education and they dedicated themselves to working incredibly hard to make themselves quality candidates for residencies. I’m just so proud of every one of them.”

Of NYITCOM at A-State students who participated in the 2020 Match, 72% were placed into primary care programs, including 36% who matched into family medicine programs, 27% into internal medicine residencies and another 8% who will specialize in pediatrics.

During their final year of medical school, student doctors apply and interview for residencies. Once they’ve completed their interviews, the student doctor ranks their preferred programs and the programs rank the preferred candidates they’ve interviewed.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) then uses an algorithm to “match” candidates with programs based on rankings. In 2019, more than 38,000 student doctors participated in the match. Student doctors around the country found out in mid-March where they’ve matched and where they subsequently will be performing their residencies, which typically start in the first week of July.

“Our country and especially our region are facing significant shortages in primary care physicians, so we’re pleased that so many of our students are pursuing those paths,” Speights said. “They have an opportunity to make a real difference.”

NYITCOM at A-State was established to train physicians to help alleviate the physician shortage in Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta region, which is one of the most medically-underserved areas of the country. Nearly half of those who participated in the match received positions that will keep them in Arkansas or a Delta region state.

“We’re pleased that many of our students landed positions in this state and region,” Speights said. “Before our doors opened, we spent significant resources to help create new residencies in Arkansas. Since 2015, 11 new programs have opened around the state, and our students matched into six of those programs. We’re committed to continuing to help grow graduate medical education in this state to provide even more opportunities for our students to stay here.”

Tim Baty, a Wynne native and University of Central Arkansas graduate, was among NYITCOM’s Arkansas natives who attended college in the state and placed in residencies in the state. Baty will specialize in family medicine at the UAMS Area Health Education Center in Batesville.

Baty told Talk Business & Politics the thing that surprised him the most during medical school was the amount of work.

“It’s like getting a drink of water out of a fire hose,” Baty joked.

Jonesboro native and ASU graduate Alyssa Weyer agreed with her classmate. The work load was tough but it was worth it to become a doctor, she said. Weyer will complete her residency at the University of Texas in Tyler.

“I had to learn how to study efficiently,” she said. “I had to learn how to grasp multiple topics and concepts at the same time.”

Sherwood native Carter Lee said he plans to practice internal medicine. Lee is an ASU graduate and he said he’s enjoyed his time in Jonesboro to the point that he will do his residency at St. Bernards.

What would he tell an incoming medical student?

“Enjoy the ride and try to celebrate the small victories each and every day,” he said.

Jonesboro native Hallie Frederick concurred with Lee. Frederick said she has wanted to be a doctor since she was in high school. She will practice internal medicine and complete her residency at Oklahoma State University. If she could talk to incoming medical students, she would tell them to find a core group of friends and understand that you’ll never feel like you are ready for an exam.

“I like people and being around people,” she said. “I love helping people out.”

One goal of the school is to train doctors who intend to live in the region and Helena native Jamarcus Brider said that once his residency and specialty training are complete, he hopes to return to this part of the state to practice medicine. He will do his residency at the Fransican Olympia Fields in Chicago. His goal is to be a cardiologist.

“I want to help people suffering from illness and disease,” he said.

While NYITCOM at A-State students heavily focused on primary care fields, the inaugural class also fared well in specialties that are among the most competitive ones. Four students matched into anesthesiology programs and six into emergency medicine residencies. Members of NYITCOM at A-State’s inaugural class were also placed in ophthalmology, dermatology, orthopedic surgery, interventional radiology, neurology, and internal medicine/pediatrics.

“Today (match day) was a historic day for not only our college, but for health care in Arkansas,” Speights said. “It’s another successful step forward in our efforts as a college and of the collective efforts of our medical students to make a difference in areas where their service is most needed.”