NEW ORLEANS - A record number of local medical students is staying in Louisiana after they graduate to do their hospital training.
And more of the local doctor training programs are being filled by graduates who want to stay here, even more than before Katrina.
The tension was growing at Match Day at the Sheraton Hotel downtown as 164 Tulane fourth year medical students waited with their families for 11 o'clock am. That's the moment all graduating medical students across the country can open their envelopes to find out where they will spend the next three to five years as a resident, a doctor training out in the real world.
"Orthopedic surgery or internal medicine here in New Orleans. I'm staying," said Tulane Medical student Michael Lindley about his first choice. When asked if he was nervous waiting to find out he said, "Extremely."
"Obstetrics and Gynecology in New Orleans, hopefully, but if not somewhere really close," said fourth year Tulane medical student Brianne Hunter about her first choice. "It's my hometown. I love New Orleans and all the people in it and I want nothing more but to help them."
Over at the Superdome, 165 LSU medical students also waited to see if the computer matched them with their first choice or not. Then the most important part of Match Day began with students running and screaming and hugging people as they opened them.
This day is not only important to these med students but to all of us living in Louisiana. That's because the young men and women who do their training here will most likely end up practicing here, growing the health care workforce of the state. For Tulane, 30 percent of the class matched in state. That's average for Tulane med school.
"This is the class that was interviewed for medical school during our evacuation to Houston, so the really interesting thing is that half of this class hadn't even seen Tulane when they agreed to come be with us. So we're really thrilled that they are matching today," said Dr. Marc Kahn, Tulane, Senior Associate Dean.
Over at LSU, 60 percent are staying in state. That's up 10 percent from last year.
"My family is here. I'm from here and I feel like there are still a lot of things to be done as far as the health care system and I would like to be part of that change, when it does finally happens," said fourth year LSUHSC medical student, Cornel Rogers.
Jerry and Hannah pounds are married and thankful that they both got matched in the same city, Baton Rouge.
"So much of medicine is the people that you see day in day out and since we feel so connected to the people of Louisiana growing up here, they're the people we most wanted to serve," said fourth year LSUHSC medical student, Hannah Pounds.
"Five years ago they weren't sure that the Saints were going to be in the superdome and they weren't sure the medical school was going to be in New Orleans, so the fact that we've both come so far I think is a strong statement," said Dr. Steve Nelson, LSUHSC, Dean of the Medical School.
After Hurricane Katrina when some faculty doctors left, there weren't enough doctors to teach some of the specialties, so some residency programs were lost or moved out of state. Now doctors at LSU Health Sciences Center say there's good news. They are recruiting faculty doctors back and with them more specialty teaching programs. Young doctors also say the promise of a new big teaching hospital is also important.
"I think it sounds great. I don't know exactly when it will come to fruition, but I'm excited about it and it's moving in a good direction, said fourth year LSUHSC medical student, Erin Cunningham, about the new teaching hospital yet to be built.
"It did make it a lot more exciting and a lot more attraction of an option to stay here rather than going somewhere else," added Rogers.
"The thing that is so important is remember for this part of your training, the hospital is really the most essential part of your training because this is where you learn the practical skills of how to be a doctor," said Dr. Nelson.
And these are the faces you may likely see on a future doctor appointment.
Last year Tulane Medical School had more than 10,000 applications for only 179 seats.