It wasn't how she wanted to do it, but at least this way helped Amanda Deel hold her tears back.
She stepped up to a podium, before a backdrop patterned with "New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University," and delivered an address to a crowd of no one.
Instead, her audience watched on Facebook Live as Deel reminisced about their first year at school in 2017 and how they'd grown since then.
"You were our only focus, much like a first-born child is to a family," Deel said.
On Friday, 81 of those NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine students were matched with medical residencies, out of 85 who applied. Most were matched with primary care residencies. About half were matched in the Delta region.
"We're real happy with how we ended up," Dean Shane Speights said, noting all of the Delta matches.
In Little Rock, 155 out of 161 University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences students matched with residencies. Of those, 67 were matched in Arkansas, said James Graham, executive associate dean for academic affairs at UAMS.
Both UAMS and NYITCOM hope to keep their students in the state or, in NYITCOM's case, the Delta, to address health care shortages and poor rankings in public health.
The annual Match Day ceremony was held virtually this year at both schools as a means of allowing everyone to "socially distance" themselves in an effort to curb covid-19 infections. It also was the first Match Day ever for NYITCOM students. The school opened three years ago in Jonesboro.
"This was, I think, the most unusual Match Day I have ever seen," said Graham, who has participated in Match Days in some capacity for more than three decades.
The ceremony is always marked with high tension and high emotions for students hoping to get into their first-choice programs. Students try to return home, or stay close to where they are, or get matched near their fiance or land their dream placement at the best school for their specialty.
Nationwide, tens of thousands of medical students are matched each year. Increasingly, residencies are less guaranteed; the number of residencies, while increasing, hasn't kept pace with the growth of medical students.
This year, 40,084 people applied for 37,256 residencies, according to The Match National Resident Matching Program.
Tim Baty got matched not too far from his hometown of Wynne, where he hopes to return someday as a primary care physician.
Baty, graduating soon from NYITCOM, will be about an hour and a half away at the UAMS clinic in Batesville, where he'll practice family medicine. He's one of NYITCOM's students headed for programs in the Delta.
Baty was inspired to be a doctor in high school while coping with his grandmother's stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis. He started shadowing a family doctor in Wynne, then spent several years transcribing for the doctor.
Then when he was looking to attend medical school he chose NYITCOM so he could be closer to his father, who was undergoing stage 4 colon cancer treatment. His dad didn't have health insurance and hadn't been advised to get a colonoscopy before age 50, which Baty says he should have been because of a family history of colon cancer.
Instead, his father was diagnosed at 50 and died at 53.
"If he had been screened earlier, like he was supposed to be based on family history ... he'd be celebrating with me right now," Baty said. "My job right now is to make sure it doesn't happen again."
He wants to emphasize preventative care as a doctor, ensuring that people get screenings when they need them and vaccines.
NYITCOM students like Baty have come a long way in three years, Speights and Deel told them Friday.
They started in a new school and are finishing in an unfamiliar moment for today's doctors -- amid a pandemic that has overwhelmed some hospitals and put medical workers at risk of catching a new disease.
Deel, associate dean and assistant professor at the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine, recalled green students -- who tried to measure a patient's blood pressure without moving the patient ear the cuff that was attached to wall, who told a test patient they "probably" wouldn't survive their cancer diagnosis. She gave the students feedback. They improved.
"So you went from that to me seeing you in your third year," she said.
Friday, those students walked with confidence and swagger.
"I couldn't be more calm knowing that you all will be taking care of the ones we love the most," she said.
Metro on 03/21/2020