A good match

Students at UofSC medical schools in Columbia, Greenville await their Match Day fate

When administrators at the hospital in Mbeya discovered the depth of clinical experience Ashley McCaskill had earned at the UofSC School of Medicine, they gave her greater responsibities in the obstetrics and gynecology department.

The fourth-year medical student was in the African country of Tanzania for a monthlong clinical rotation before graduation.

At first, the situation caused panic, which quickly turned into confidence as McCaskill delivered dozens of babies and placentas, repaired episiotomies and cared for the gynecological needs of hundreds of women.

The hospital’s lack of technology provided her with plenty of opportunities. With only one ultrasound machine at the hospital, she was forced to rely on her examination skills to accurately diagnose patients.   

“I have a lot more confidence in my skills,” McCaskill says.

She hopes that confidence will be key when Match Day arrives. That’s the day each year — this year on March 15 — that medical students across the United States find out which residency program selected them. The decision — or match — determines where the new doctors will spend the next three to five years depending on the specialty.

For McCaskill, who worked at women’s clinics both in medical school and while an undergraduate at Furman University, the ideal situation would be a general OB-GYN position.

“I feel like I can relate to female patients," she says. “I enjoy taking care of and advocating for women, specially because most of their obstetric or gynecologic complaints are so deeply rooted in their emotional and spiritual health.”  

McCaskill interviewed at 11 hospitals, mainly in the Southeast, with the hope that she’ll get to stay close to her home in Columbia.

The uncertainty may be nerve-wracking, but the payoff has the potential to be enormous.

“I was thrilled to finally open my letter,” says Ethan Brown, who went through the match process last year as a student at the School of Medicine Greenville.

Brown grew up in Pickens, S.C., and, like McCaskill, wanted to stay close to home. He was excited when he was selected for one of only 10 spots in the Greenville Health System’s emergency department. 

“These are the people I grew up around. These are the people I want to take care of,” Brown says.

The selection was especially meaningful because Brown had gone through GHS’s Medical Experience Academy, an initiative designed to head off an impending physician shortage in South Carolina, while an undergraduate at Clemson University. The MedEx program allows high school and college students to see firsthand what it’s like to work in the health care field.

Prior service as a medic in the Army National Guard solidified Brown’s decision to choose emergency medicine as a specialty. It also helped that School of Medicine Greenville’s curriculum requires all first-year medical students to complete an EMT training course.  

“Becoming a doctor has always been the goal. Giving back to my community has become a calling. To do both in the place I call home, that’s more than I could have dreamed for,” Brown says.

The dream also may require some science for the 30,000 medical students who take part in the match process. Each student ranks their picks for a residency program at the same time that the residency programs rank the students. The scores are fed into a computer and calculated.

“I never imagined going into medical school that my residency would be based on a computer algorithm,” McCaskill says.

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