(Mar. 15, 2013)
A year off from medical school helped Bryan Howington refocus on his goals.
Now, he's headed for a family medicine residency at McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence, S.C., with plans to return to his hometown of Pembroke after that.
"It's always been my dream to return home and practice health care," said Howington, who's finishing his studies at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. "There's nothing like working in the community you grew up in and forming those long-term relationships."
Howington, a Brody Scholar at ECU, became a father one year ago today and will be getting married shortly after graduation in May. He thanked the Brody School of Medicine, its faculty and staff and the Brody family for his medical education.
"I can never truly repay them for all they've done for me," he said.
Howington was one of 69 graduating medical students participating in Match Day at ECU. Of those, 40, or 57.9 percent, will be going into a primary care field: family medicine (nine), internal medicine (five), internal medicine/psychiatry (one), internal medicine/pediatrics (four), pediatrics (14), pediatrics/genetics (one) and OB/GYN (six).
Altogether, this year's ECU graduates are going to residencies in 22 states, from Washington to Florida. However, 30 of them, or 43 percent, are staying in North Carolina.
Match Day is when medical students across the country learn where they will spend the next three-to-seven years as doctors-in-training.
For Dr. Paul Cunningham, dean of the medical school, the day brought more reasons to feel good about ECU's accomplishments. Of the 30 who are staying in state, 14 matched into residencies at ECU/Vidant Medical Center. These students will work with attending physicians at the hospital, at a medical office or other local practice site. Statistics show students tend to practice near where they do their residencies, so there's a good chance many will stay in eastern North Carolina.
"We really look for people we sense have a commitment to North Carolina and especially rural North Carolina," said Cunningham who himself practiced in the small northeastern North Carolina town of Windsor before joining the medical school three decades ago.
Justin Black matched to an internship year at Spartanburg (S.C.) Regional Healthcare with plans to go from there to a radiology residency at Wake Forest University. Both are close to his hometown of Catawba and his parents and in-laws. He and his wife are expecting a baby any day, so being close to home is important.
"The whole thing is kind of surreal," said Black, who shared an emotional moment with his wife after opening his residency letter. "It ranks up there with the happiest days of my life" after his wedding day.
"It was just so much hard work, and it paid off," Black said of medical school. "My part of fulfilling the mission of the school is I'm going to practice in North Carolina the rest of my career."
Kelley Haven, a mother of a 4-year-old daughter, is following her father into OB/GYN. She originally wanted to pursue family medicine with a women's health fellowship after seeing the long hours her father worked. But OB/GYN was where her heart was, and she learned she could balance a career and motherhood.
"I was confident I could be a mom and do the work I love the most," said Haven, who is staying in Greenville for a residency at Vidant Medical Center. "I love the operating room in a way I didn't anticipate. I love being able to fix something."
She also wants to educate women about the choices they have regarding their reproductive health and childbirth.
"I really want to be an advocate for my patients," she said. "I'm really excited."
By tradition, the last student whose name is called gets a pot of money. This year, that was Kyle Staton, who collected $272. He's going to Shands Hospital at the University of Florida for a residency in general surgery.
Nationally, 24,463 applicants successfully matched to first-year residency positions, according to the National Residency Matching Program. Of those, 16,390 were U.S. medical school seniors. Across the country, family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics all saw increases in the numbers of students who matched to residency programs.
A complete look at Match Day 2013 results at ECU is online at http://www.ecu.edu/cs-dhs/bsomstudentaffairs/upload/2013-Match-List-for-Web-alpha-order.pdf