There are two symbolic days for students in medical school — the day they first put on their white coats and the day they learn where where they will continue their graduate medical education.
The inaugural class of Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine (ARCOM) at Arkansas Colleges of Health Education (ACHE) had their white coat ceremony Sept. 16, 2017. At 11 a.m. Friday (March 19), a celebrated Match Day was held in which students opened their envelopes to see where they would continue their education through a residency program.
“It’s a very exciting time for graduates. They learn where they will be going, in what field they will be placed,” said Dr. Rance McClain, ARCOM dean.
Of the class, 73% will be going into primary care and 74% will stay in the Fort Smith metro for their residency program, McClain said. Of the 140 students graduating from ARCOM in May, 105 will enter programs in states ranking in the bottom 20 for access to medical care, he said. This is important because studies show that 70% of doctors stay in the region where they were educated, McClain said, meaning a vast majority of ARCOM’s first class of doctors will practice in areas most in need of access to medical care. The class had a 95% placement rate.
“It is a bigger indicator of where they will practice than where they were born or raised,” McClain said.
For a class that has seen its share of challenges, going through medical school during the first global pandemic in more than 100 years to name just one, the level of excitement building before students could open their envelopes electrified the Fort Smith Convention Center in the seconds leading up to 11 a.m.
“Over roughly the last almost four years, we have committed to approximately 2,400 hours lectures and labs … probably 2,400 hours of studying outside of class during those years, 3,200 hours of seeing patients over the last two years …, 50 hours of Zoom, 40 hours of residency interviews on average, hundreds of hours of board studying, 15 hours of town halls and now 25 minutes of Match Day speeches. If you add all of that up that is equal to over 365 days. That is the time you have spent learning, sacrificing, all to get where you are today. Take a moment and appreciate all that you have accomplished and all that lies ahead,” said Joseph Wells, class president, who learned Friday he was matched with a family medicine residency in Oklahoma City.
As the envelopes were opened and the balloons cleared, students cheered, hugged loved ones and shed more than a few tears of joy as they learned the class would scatter from Illinois to Alaska, Kentucky to Florida, Arizona to South Carolina and so many places throughout the country.
Students will head to pediatric residencies in Toledo, Ohio; Chicago; Oklahoma City; Little Rock and more. They will be starting their training in neurology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in New Hampshire, in internal medicine with Riverside University Health System in Moreno Valley, Calif., in osteopathic neurology at Mercy Hospital in Joplin, Mo.
A few students will remain in Fort Smith or go to Little Rock, North Little Rock, Searcy, Tulsa, Talihina and Fayetteville. They received matches throughout Texas and Oklahoma and in Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia and Alabama.
“You’re probably one of the most and well prepared doctors in the market because it was the early 1900s the last time this country went through what it has gone through (during your training), and consequently I think you are going to see that preparation in your matches today,” said ACHE CEO Kyle Parker. “A few short months from now, you are going to enter into another minimum of three years of continued education. You will work 80 hours a week. … But you are prepared. You have paid the price. You know what it takes. And you will succeed.”