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Three medical students at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine recently found out they matched in ophthalmology.
“Ophthalmology is a great field and is becoming less of a well-kept secret, so the competitiveness can be intimidating,” said USA medical student Gavin Reed. “I was thrilled and so relieved to match. Residency is the time where you become a master at your craft, and I can’t wait to have an impact on each person who walks through the door.”
Reed, from Tuscaloosa, Ala., matched in ophthalmology at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. “Ophthalmology was everything I wanted in a specialty – it’s challenging, complex and interesting,” he said. “There is a medical side that deals with systemic issues and outpatient therapy, and then there is a technical, surgical side that can offer life-changing intervention to patients.”
The son of a physician, Reed always enjoyed science and wanted a career that would have a big impact on others. Medicine seemed like a good fit.
The majority of medical students go through the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) to find out where they will be doing their residency training following graduation, but students who wish to match in ophthalmology participate in a specialty match program that takes place months before Match Day on March 18.
According to Dr. Susan LeDoux, associate dean of medical education and student affairs at USA, ophthalmology is an extremely competitive residency program. “We are extremely proud of the three students who matched in ophthalmology,” she said. “Their success speaks to the quality of students who choose to come to our medical school and to the quality of their training once they are here.”
Jeffrey St. John, another fourth-year medical student at USA, matched in ophthalmology at The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Miss. “I was immensely relieved that my hard work paid off, and that I matched at my first choice,” he said. “I’m incredibly excited about the prospect of spending the rest of my life in such a fulfilling and exciting field.”
Born and raised in Mobile, St. John became interested in medicine while taking an AP Biology course at UMS-Wright, and his interest grew to ophthalmology when he shadowed an ophthalmologist after his first year of medical school. “That day I saw her use a machine called the "Lens X," which utilized lasers to chop up a cataract in the eye into dozens of pieces. I was mesmerized,” he said. “The evolving technology used in ophthalmology is incredible.”
St. John also credits his long-time hobby, fly fishing, for helping him appreciate the microsurgical techniques used in ophthalmology. “I have been making my own flies – sometimes only millimeters long – for fly fishing since I was 13 years old, and I believe this helped to cultivate my interest for the field of ophthalmology.”
The more St. John shadowed, the more he realized that ophthalmology is the perfect blend of both surgery and internal medicine. He’s looking forward to becoming an expert in the field so that he may provide his patients with “the greatest chance possible of maintaining their sight.”
Austin Fox, a medical student from Dothan, Ala., matched in ophthalmology at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. “I was relieved to match, and am ecstatic to be training at Iowa! I am looking forward to taking an active role in patient care while focusing on vision health.”
Fox became interested in medicine and exposed to ophthalmology in college, “I took an introductory science course on medicinal plants, which exposed me to the effect that medicine can have on human health. Subsequently, I have been fortunate to have many great mentors and personal experiences which allowed me to see the impact that healthy vision has on one’s life.”
In July 2015, Fox returned to medical school after a 2-year stint at the National Institutes of Health, where he participated in the Medical Research Scholars Program. During that time, he participated in research in the Laboratory of Immunology of the National Eye Institute. “The time spent at NIH has been instrumental in my training, and I am grateful that USA allowed me the flexibility to pursue these interests.”
All three students agree that their time at USA will help them significantly in their residencies. “My experiences during medical school helped me to become a better person and will help me to be a better clinician,” St. John said. “The intimate environment South provides fosters incredible learning opportunities – the faculty are great educators, receptive and easily approachable.”
“I think having had such hands-on training at USA will prepare us to jump right in without fear and start learning from day one,” Reed added.
The remainder of the USA College of Medicine Class of 2016 will find out where they matched on Match Day, March 18, 2016. The event will take place at the Mobile Convention Center in downtown Mobile.
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