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'I know they're proud', History-making Match Day for the 15 White Coats

And one group of Tulane medical students hopes to inspire African-Americans to follow in their footsteps since they make up only 2% of U.S. doctors.
Credit: WWLTV

NEW ORLEANS — A group of local medical students, who are about to graduate, hope to inspire young African Americans to one day become doctors.

“You have to think about how can you be what you can't see. We say that all the time. We have to think about the things that people tell you, you can't do, I was told that this wasn't going to happen.” said Tulane medical student Sydney Labat.

Across the country, fourth-year medical students all found out, at the exact same time, where they will spend the next few years in their residency training.

It's called the match.

And one group of Tulane medical students hopes to inspire African-Americans to follow in their footsteps since they make up only 2% of U.S. doctors.

Heart rates were up and emotions were off the charts as Tulane medical students found out where they will spend the next few years in residency training. Medical students across the U.S. submit the city, hospital and specialty they want to go into, while the residency programs do the same. Then they are matched by computer.

In the Tulane Medical School class of 2022,  is a group called "The 15 White Coats". They made national news a few years back, in magazines like People, when they took pictures in front of slave quarters at Whitney Plantation in Edgard. 

Their goals: to show how far they have come and to inspire African-American children to become doctors. Sydney Labat, of Bay St. Louis, will do her residency at Ochsner in anesthesiology. She is grateful for her opportunities and the resilience of the ancestors who got her there.

“I was in tears at that moment because I felt that I had been doing something that, whoo, that they would have wanted us to do,” said Labat.

Dr. Russell Ledet from Lake Charles has a Ph.D. in molecular oncology and tumor immunology. He also has an MBA, and will soon graduate from Tulane medical school.  Why so many degrees?

“Because coming from where I come from, it doesn't happen, and I want to be the force of nature for the future,” said Dr. Russell Ledet, 35, a Tulane medical student.

He matched a residency program in Indiana. When finished, he'll be triple boarded in pediatrics, adult psychiatry and children and adolescent psychiatry.

“A lot of issues we see in our community comes from nobody addressing the fact that mental health is at the forefront of everything we do. So it's my job to make sure that I'm a lion in the den, and we get the job done,” said Dr. Ledet.

He plans to come back to Louisiana with his wife and two daughters. His job as a dad is his most important.

“Every time I can ask my kids, ‘How are you feeling?’ and just listen, it means so much to them, and so the fact that I'm becoming a child psychiatrist it warms my heart,” said Dr. Ledet.

Some of the people at the match today are first-generation medical school and aspiring doctors, but there are also many who are first generation to graduate from college.

One of them is Christen Brown. She's headed to wake forest for a dermatology residency. She's part of The 15 White Coats.

“If they could only see, but I feel them here. I know they're proud, and I hope to continue to make them, my family, and Tulane proud,” said Christen Brown, a Tulane medical student.

Proud and an inspiration to future medical students for decades to come.

The 15 White Coats provides scholarship funds to help students who want to go to medical school. 

Click here to find out more or donate here.

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