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WVU-Charleston med students get their residency letters

Kathryn Gregory
Carolyn Marcelo (left) smiles as she and her twin sister, Catherine, open their residency letters at the same time Friday during the West Virginia-Charleston Division School of Medicine Match Day. The women will be internal medicine residents at Richmond's Virginia Commonwealth University.
Kathryn Gregory Pittsburgh native Rebecca Barnett holds her residency letter with her father, Dr. Alan Barnett, at the Match Day ceremony at the Clay Center's Walker Theater. Barnett will be in residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, where her father attended medical school.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Light chatter hung in the air at the Clay Center's Walker Theater as the first name was called.

"Zach Brewer."

Brewer's face lit up as he walked forward and accepted the envelope that would change the course of his life.

He was one of about 40 students from the West Virginia University-Charleston Division School of Medicine who gathered to receive their match letters from the National Resident Matching Program, a private corporation that decides where graduate medical students will complete their residencies.

A Bridgeport native, Brewer will stay in Charleston as he does his three-year residency in internal medicine at Charleston Area Medical Center.

One by one, students were called to the front of the room to accept their letter from Kathleen Bors, dean for student services at WVU-Charleston.

Although Brewer was first, he waited until all of his classmates at his table had been called before he tore into his envelope.

"I wanted us all to open it together and enjoy the experience," said Brewer, who added that he is happy to be staying in West Virginia.

"They told us when we filled out our ranking list not to put any place on there that we didn't want to go," he said. "That way today, whatever the outcome, is good news."

Brandon Radow also will complete his residency at CAMC, for general surgery. "Charleston was my first choice," the city native said. "I am glad to be staying home. I think WVU has done a great job of preparing me and I think highly of the system and I am thankful to have trained with them in Charleston."

The WVU School of Medicine satellite campus in Charleston was formed in 1972 as part of a federal rural-health initiative to expand medical schools beyond the traditional campus. It's the oldest regional medical school campus in the nation.

The WVU satellite campus was the first of its kind and has been "incredibly successful," said Jeff Driggs, director of communications and marketing for the WVU Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center's Charleston Division.

Twin sisters Catherine and Carolyn Marcelo, 25, were accepted for an internal-medicine residency at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

"We did undergrad together at medical school and now we're going to do our residency together," Carolyn said with a smile.

The sisters from Huntington interviewed separately, and Catherine ranked VCU second behind Carolyn's first-rank spot -- but the sisters ended up together anyway.

"Having that support system there is going to mean a lot," Carolyn said.

The sisters debated whether to apply as a couple and guarantee that they would be placed together, "but I didn't want to cramp her style," Carolyn said, "but I'm really happy."

Cleveland native Neil Bruce, 26, landed his first-choice residency at Yale University, in psychiatry. "I was nervous today. You don't know where you're going to go," he said. "It's all based off a math algorithm and the feelings you have after you leave the interview."

Bruce said he is excited to start July 1, and his internship "will be a lot of new responsibilities. The medical school here prepared us, so we all kind of know what is coming down the pike."

Pittsburgh native Rebecca Barnett will be at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, completing her residency in obstetrics.

"I was nervous but excited," for Friday's ceremony, she said. "I didn't know what to expect, but I am thrilled. This is where my dad went to medical school."

Barnett said she always excelled in science when she was younger and gravitated toward the medical field being raised in a home with a physician father.

Her father, Dr. Alan Barnett, said he always encouraged her to follow a path she liked, but did warn her about the difficulties of becoming a medical professional.

"You think high school is hard, wait until you get to college. Then you think college is hard, wait until you get to medical school. Then you get to your residency and you're working 80 hours a week," he said with a smile.

"But [my parents] always encouraged me," Barnett said. The medical school in New Jersey was Barnett's second choice, something her father remarked on.

"Well, she beat me," he said. "I got my fifth choice."

For Dr. L. Clark Hansbarger, dean of the WVU School of Medicine Charleston Division, Friday was bittersweet. Hansbarger is retiring, so he was watching his last class of students get their residency letters.

"Our purpose is to train them for the next phase. I'm pretty pleased with this class and think we have done an excellent job. This class has been particularly excellent," Hansbarger, 83, said, citing a 100-percent pass record on all stages of their exams.

Hansbarger said Match Day isn't just about the students. Parents and grandparents, who have waited eight or 10 years for this day, also have a large stake in the day. This day leads to everyone's favorite part, he said.

"The next phase, they will start to get paid," he said with a smile, "and be called Doctor."

Reach Kathryn Gregory at kathryng@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.


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