After Leaving Texas For Graduate Training, How Many Doctors Will Come Back

Doctor Shortage Looms Over Joyful “Match Day” at Houston Medical Schools


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Match Day 2015
Lizzie Gibson finds out she will become a resident in orthopedic surgery at Orlando Health, after graduating from UT Health medical school in Houston. She’s flanked by her parents, Jerry and Mary Gibson of Clear Lake.


March 20 was “Match Day” — a medical school ritual that happens every March across the country. It’s the day when graduating medical students find out which residency became their “match” for an additional three to seven years of specialty training.

The 2015 “Match” was the largest in history, with 41,000 applicants vying for only 30,000 U.S. resident positions.

The matching process works as follows: Fourth-year students at U.S. medical schools interview at hospital-based programs offering training in a chosen specialty, like dermatology, ophthalmology, or internal medicine. They rank their favorite programs, and the programs rank the candidates. On Match Day, each graduate is paired with just one program, hopefully one of their top picks.

Lizzie Gibson is completing her fourth year at UT Health in Houston. She decided on orthopedic surgery, and because that field is especially competitive, she applied to 70 programs across the country.

“I like that it’s kind of an objective [field]: the bone was broken, you fixed it, and you can see that,” Gibson said. “I guess I like the instant gratification of orthopedics.”

Gibson, 28, grew up in Clear Lake. Her dad is an anesthesiologist, but she started out as a nurse.

During high school, she didn’t think she wanted to commit to the many years it took to become a doctor. But as nursing school came to a close, she realized it wasn’t really for her.

“I felt like I didn’t get to make a lot of decisions,” Gibson said. “I could have a patient and even if I understood the pathophysiology of the disease, and if I thought that I knew what the course of treatment should be, I didn’t have a voice. It didn’t matter what I thought.”

Gibson admits she wanted to be the “decision maker.” She came back to Houston and worked as an ortho-trauma nurse at Memorial Hermann Hospital while applying for medical school.

She believes that experience has made her a better doctor.

“For starters I wasn’t scared of patients,” Gibson explained. “I think a lot of third-year medical students, having never actually interacted with a patient, it’s kind of this unknown [for them.] And they don’t know: ‘Can I touch the patient? What can I ask them?’ And that element of fear wasn’t there for me, because I had worked with patients for years.”

Going forward, Gibson believes she’ll continue to work well with nurses, since she knows how insightful they are.

On Friday morning, close to noon, the 223 graduating doctors at UT Health came up one by one to take a sealed envelope containing their “match.” They ripped them open at the same time.

Gibson was chosen by her first choice, Orlando Health in Florida.

“I really like the program, and I really like Disney World, so that factored in a little bit,” she said with a laugh. “So I think this way my family will come visit me more.”

It was a happy moment, but also a slightly troubling one for the president of UT Health, Dr. Giuseppe Colasurdo.

He says Texas needs more doctors, but many of the new graduates, like Gibson, have to leave the state to finish their training, because there aren’t enough residencies in Texas to meet demand.

“We’ve seen our ratio of acting physicians to population deteriorating,” he said.

Colasurdo says the data is clear: when new doctors leave Texas to finish training, they’re less likely to come back and be a doctor here, compared to doctors who did all their training in Texas.

He and others have asked the Texas legislature to help create more residencies in Texas, and the initial budget bills do contain tens of millions in additional money towards that goal.

AT UT Health, 22 percent of the medical students will do their residencies at UT Health. Another 19 percent will stay in Texas for at least the first year of graduate training. The rest will go directly to programs in other states.

At Baylor College of Medicine, 178 students participated in Match Day. 27 percent of them will do their residencies at Baylor. Another 17 percent will stay in Texas for training, and 56 percent will leave the state.


Editor’s Correction: The percentages in the last paragraph have been changed to accurately reflect medical residency information.

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