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Meeting their match: Majority of Brody students entering primary care residencies

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Raven Delgado shakes the hand of Dean Mark Stacy during the Brody School of Medicine’s Match Day Ceremony at ECU on March 15, 2019. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Kim Grizzard

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Adam O'Connor spent four years playing college football and had a brief career in the NFL. But this summer, he will head to the University of Virginia. At age 36, the former All-American defensive end has finally met his match: emergency medicine.

O'Connor was among more than 70 graduating students from ECU's Brody School of Medicine who learned on Friday where they would complete their residency training.

Far less formal than the White Coat Ceremony that marks the beginning of the medical school experience, Match Day is a colorful occasion in which students strut across the stage to their own personal theme songs, offering hugs and high fives to faculty.

It is one of Dr. Mark Stacy's favorite days of the year.

“I love the joy of the envelope opening and hearing the screams,” said Stacy, dean of the Brody School of Medicine and vice chancellor for health sciences at ECU.

“It's a great validation of our program,” he said. “Every student in this class has matched to a residency program and that is a tremendous accomplishment.”

At Match Day events across the globe on Friday, medical school students and graduates learned in which residency programs they will train for the next three to seven years. The 2019 Main Residency Match is the largest in National Resident Matching Program history. A record-high 38,376 applicants submitted program choices for 35,185 positions, the most ever offered.

At Brody, nearly 40 percent are entering primary care residencies, including eight in family medicine, 11 in pediatrics and nine in internal medicine. Eight graduates will enter residencies in obstetrics/gynecology.

“If we included OBGYN, we had more than 50 percent in primary care and OBGYN,” Stacy said.

Brody ranks first in the state and second in the nation for the percentage of graduates who choose careers in family medicine.

Nearly 25 percent of Brody graduates — all of whom are North Carolina residents — were matched to residency programs within the state.

Stacy said the school's 1,700 graduates practicing in North Carolina make up 7 percent of the physician labor force.

“We have 19 percent of the labor force in medically under-served counties,” he said. “Forty-two percent of those 1,700 graduates practice in under-served medical communities in eastern North Carolina.”

Jamie Hunter of Kinston is planning to add to the ranks. The 27-year-old South Lenoir High School graduate will stay in Greenville for her residency in family medicine as one of eight students to be matched at Vidant.

“I had some great mentor doctors in Kinston who kind of guided me toward the path of medicine,” Hunter said. “They are family medicine doctors, so I feel like I'm honoring them in this way by continuing their tradition. … It's been a long time coming.”

For Consola Esambe Lobwede, it has been even longer. The 42-year-old was a certified nursing assistant when she and her family moved to North Carolina from Cameroon, West Africa, in 2004. She went on to become a nurse before enrolling in medical school as a wife and mother of four.

“It's been a long journey,” Esambe Lobwede said. “There were so many times when I was like 'I'm ready to give up and then those friends would (say) 'No, we've come this far.'”

Esambe Lobwede, who gave birth to her fifth child five weeks ago, will enter a residency in psychiatry in Greenville, S.C.

Like Esambe Lobwede, O'Connor did not follow a traditional path to medical school. He received his undergraduate degree in history and, after his football career ended, spent some time in commercial insurance.

“I decided it wasn't for me for the next 30 years and figured out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and that started the chain of events that led me back to school and back to Brody.”

O'Connor is one of 13 graduates matched to residency programs in emergency medicine, which he considers “the ultimate team sport in medicine.”

The University of Virginia was a first choice for O'Connor, who attended undergraduate school at William and Mary.

“There were definitely some bumps and bruises and life lessons along the way,” he said. “There's definitely easier ways to get to this point in life, but I wouldn't change a thing.”

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