Meharry’s Match Day a Win for Primary Care
Meharry’s Match Day a Win for Primary Care | Meharry Medical College, Match Day 2012, primary care, family medicine, underserved communities, social mission score, Robert Wood Johnson Center for Health Policy, Charles P. Mouton

Nkiruka Emeagwali (L) marks the location where she matched on Meharry’s Match Day map. She is accompanied by her mentor Dr. Maria F. Lima, Dean of Meharry’s School of Graduate Studies and Research. Emeagwali matched in Internal Medicine at Rhode Islan
For medical students, nothing quite matches the excitement each spring of Match Day, when fourth years find out where they will begin their medical careers as residents.

“Match Day means everything to me,” said 2012 Class President Reuben Battley. “It’s always been my dream to be a pediatrician, and this is the first day my dream has actually come true. I’m excited to enter the field of pediatrics and continue the legacy of Meharry.”

And Nashville’s Meharry Medical College certainly has a storied legacy. The event this year and every year is testament to Meharry’s mission of serving underserved communities. That’s because so many Meharry graduates enter primary care fields.

This year’s March 16 Match Day was no exception, with 62 percent (44 students) of Meharry’s soon-to-be graduates matching in the primary care fields of internal medicine, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics, and the remaining 38 percent (27 students) in various specialties.

Meharry’s primary care match rate is one of the highest in the nation. Fifteen students matched in family medicine, 12 in pediatrics, 11 in internal medicine, three in OB/GYN and three in medical pediatrics. Twelve percent matched to residency programs in Tennessee, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Nashville General Hospital at Meharry, where seven students will enter training programs.

According to Charles P. Mouton, MD, the dean of Meharry’s School of Medicine, “one of the key elements” for providing healthcare in underserved communities is training a cadre of physicians in primary care. “One of the first portals of entry in these communities is often through primary care, and Meharry recognizes that,” he said. “Having a primary care physician, one who coordinates the care, is essential. Research has shown that individuals who have a primary care physician coordinating their care have a better outcome.”

Enhancing Meharry’s mission is its Robert Wood Johnson Center for Health Policy, which graduated its first class of scholars in May 2011. The center was made possible by an $18 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The scholars successfully complete courses in health equity, health economics and law, ethics and a host of other health policy topics.  After graduation, some scholars continue their education by pursuing doctorates in dentistry and epidemiology, while others join the workforce as public health practitioners.

“The Robert Wood Johnson Center for Health Policy helps nationally in terms of setting the standard for what it means to address the underserved communities, particularly around the issues of health disparities,” Mouton said. “What schools like Meharry do is close the gap that this country has in its healthcare.”

Just two years ago, Meharry was recognized nationally for its work. That’s when a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine ranked Meharry second for its “social mission score.” The first-of-its-kind quantitative study ranked all the nation’s 141 allopathic and osteopathic medical schools based on three metrics:

1.     1999-2001 medical school graduates who practice in primary care,

2.    the number of medical school graduates who work in health professional shortage areas and

3.    the number of physician graduates who are underrepresented minorities in medicine.

The three metrics combined created a social mission score and ranking. In primary care physician output, two Tennessee schools ranked in the top five in the nation: Meharry and East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine, which is the No. 1 producer of primary care physicians in the nation.

Mouton said that what “thrilled” Meharry about the ranking was a shift away from a focus on research dollars and toward a metric that recognizes the contributions from institutions like his. “This ranking was based on what we believe medical schools should be about, and that’s serving the healthcare needs of the communities. That social mission is what medicine should be about,” he reiterated. “We were immensely proud that Meharry, through its focus on its mission, was recognized.”

Meharry’s commitment to primary care begins during student recruitment, when the college looks to attract “the best and the brightest minds here in Nashville but also across the country,” Mouton explained. Meharry reaches into middle schools and high schools and also works to recognize college undergraduates who are scholastically gifted and also offer “character and commitment to serve populations of need,” he said.

“Meharry is not a newcomer to this need for primary care,” Mouton continued. “If you look across our 137-year history, we’ve always provided a primary care workforce that is well-trained and of high quality. We’ve been doing this for a long time."