For the better part of Mark Leekoff’s life, his educational goal was to finish medical school. This was no small feat for a man who will soon become the first deaf graduate of a medical school in West Virginia. Diagnosed at 17 months as profoundly deaf, Leekoff, at age 3, became one of the first children in the U.S. to receive a cochlear implant.
“When I was applying to medical schools, I wanted to attend a school with a great reputation that was close to my home in northern Virginia,” said Leekoff, current West Virginia University School of Medicine student. “Most schools were hesitant to take on a deaf student, but WVU gave me a chance, and it has paid off very well. The physicians and staff have been nothing short of amazing in helping me succeed in my pursuit of a medical degree by providing support and accommodations, and I’m going to miss my family in Morgantown.”
Today, Leekoff was happy to learn that he matched with the University of Maryland and residency training in neurology.
For four years, students at the WVU School of Medicine have worked toward Match Day – the day they learn where they will spend the next several years as resident-physicians. WVU medical students, as well as those throughout the nation, participated in the complex process that matches graduating medical students’ preferences with program preferences.
Members of the Class of 2014 received traditional Match Day sealed envelopes, which contained letters identifying their resident match at noon today. This year’s WVU celebrations were held simultaneously at Lakeview Golf Resort and Spa in Morgantown, Four Points by Sheraton for the Charleston campus and the Purple Iris in Martinsburg for the Eastern campus.
“We have seen more students choosing to stay in the state or nearby for the start of their residency training, despite being heavily recruited by programs all over the country,” Norman Ferrari, M.D., vice dean for education and academic affairs and chair of the WVU Department of Medical Education. “Research has shown that residents tend to establish their practices close to where they train. Forty percent of our graduating medical students will begin their residency training in West Virginia this July.”
Fifty-three percent of the Class of 2014 will train in internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, or obstetrics/gynecology, fields that typically represent a person’s primary care.
The career goals of West Virginia native and current School of Medicine student Jess Johnson include serving rural populations in the state and nationally as an internal medicine and pediatric physician. Johnson spent her third year of medical school on WVU’s Eastern campus. She learned today that her residency will be at WVU.
“I was hoping to match here at WVU, because I feel like it’s the perfect fit for me,” Johnson said. “I grew up in Elkins. Both of my parents are from West Virginia, and they always taught me the importance of being proud of where you came from.”
The WVU School of Medicine places an emphasis on rural health and teaching in local communities throughout the state. Just this month, the School was ranked 11th for rural medicine in U.S. News and World Report’s 2015 edition of “America’s Best Graduate Schools.”
Ali Hajiran, also a West Virginia native and current School of Medicine student appreciated the financial support that he received from the school and the state. Hajiran matched early in a urologic surgery residency in the WVU Department of Surgery.
“I was born and raised in Wheeling, West Virginia, and am very proud of my hometown and state,” Hajiran said. “As a West Virginia resident, I was fortunate to receive a generous amount of financial support from WVU and the state, which helped me focus on discovering my true interests in medicine without the burden of hefty student loans.”
Hajiran and Johnson met during medical school and have participated in a service trip to rebuild houses in New Orleans and on a medical rotation to Guatemala to provide primary care to a vast number of people who have limited access.
“Having a significant other who is also a medical student turned out to be quite a blessing,” said Hajiran. “It was nice to have someone who understands everything that you are going through, including all of the daily obstacles and pressures that come with being a medical student.”
“The Class of 2014 has earned a 100 percent pass rate on both U.S. Medical Licensure Examination (USMLE) Step 1 and Step 2 tests for two consecutive years in 2012 and 2013, an accomplishment that is distinctly rare,” Arthur J. Ross, III, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the WVU School of Medicine, said. “We are so proud to have this talented group of students become physicians. The number of students remaining in West Virginia and bordering states, plus the number of students entering primary care indicate that we are keeping the important promises as the state’s land grant institution of caring for West Virginians and helping West Virginia students succeed in their education.”
Students in the School of Medicine Class of 2014 matched in 22 different fields and will go to 21 different states. Some selected training opportunities not offered anywhere in West Virginia, such as radiation oncology, plastic surgery, and combined pediatrics/psychiatry/child psychiatry programs.
The National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) couples prospective applicants with residency programs. Each applicant makes a list ranking the residency program in their order of desirability. The residency programs do the same with the applicants, and the NRMP matches them up.
Residency training typically takes three to five years. Residents practice medicine under the supervision of experienced physicians before being certified in a specialty. Not all graduating medical students get matched. According to NRMP, last year 975 graduates of U.S. medical schools did not match, accounting for 5.6 percent of U.S. grads.
WVU has the largest number of graduate medical education offerings in the state, with more than 50 specialty training programs, all of which are fully accredited. One-half of the training programs are the only such specialty programs offered in the entire state.
Residency training begins at WVU the first week of July for more than 100 new residents from medical schools across the country.
School of Medicine commencement ceremonies will be held on Sunday, May 11, at the Morgantown Event Center at Waterfront Place. William A. Neal, M.D., retiring professor in the WVU Department of Pediatrics, will serve as the featured speaker.
By the numbers:
Top States: West Virginia (40 percent), Ohio (9 percent), Pennsylvania (8 percent), South Carolina (5 percent)
Top Specialties: Internal Medicine (20 percent), Family Medicine (13 percent), Transitional Year (13 percent), Pediatrics (9 percent)
Twitter: Students, faculty and staff participated in tweeting pictures and information during the Match Day ceremony using the following hashtags: #Match2014; #IMatched; #WVU.
Photo captions: Mark Leekoff, member of the WVU School of Medicine Class of 2014, opens his envelope to see where he will be going for residency training.
Ali Hajiran, member of the WVU School of Medicine Class of 2014, and his parents, Rebecca and Homan Hajiran, Ph.D., are all smiles about Ali’s match with WVU for residency training.
The WVU School of Medicine Class of 2014