Millennium Centre’s ballroom was filled with stifled excitement Friday as the 63 members of the Class of 2013 at East Tennessee State University’s medical school waited to find out where they would go for the next few years.
Cheers erupted just after noon as the soon-to-be graduates opened envelopes containing letters that matched them to specific residency programs across the nation. This same event was held at medical schools across the nation Friday.
Avery Nolen, a graduating medical student who grew up in Memphis’ inner-city area, was matched to Ohio State University’s urban track residency program. It is intended to serve the urban poor and underserved, much like a rural residency program would be intended to serve the rural poor.
He described his residency program as a “perfect fit,” because he is from an urban environment and knows what it is like.
Nolen decided to become a doctor at an early age. He was 4 when his brother passed away. His little sister died at age 2. These events affected his path in life and led him to become a doctor, he said.
“I’m great,” he said Friday afternoon. “I couldn’t be happier. This is a very special day.”
Rick Reuhland, a graduate of the first ETSU medical school class in 1982, was present to watch his son, Brian, find out he would be going to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s program in emergency medicine.
“I’m very happy,” Brian said. “It’s been a great journey, and I’m very happy to be where I am right now.”
He wanted to pursue medicine because it is a good opportunity to help people, especially during these tough economic times.
“I just feel really fortunate to be able to be a part of something that is so integral to so many people’s lives, and I’m glad I got to do it here,” he said.
Jennifer Phemister is a mother of four who worked at Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport for 10 years before deciding to go to medical school because she wanted a second career to serve other people. She matched to ETSU’s internal medicine residency program.
“It was a challenge, but in another way they were very encouraging,” Phemister said of her children. “They were my biggest cheerleaders. They would even come to the school at night and study with me and do their homework, so they were really a great inspiration.”
Graduates will begin residency programs July 1.