While it may be among the new governor’s more obscure statements to most people, John Bel Edwards absolutely gets it when he talks up the importance of “Match Day.”
Not safety-match day, if there is one, but the matches between medical school graduates and their residency practices at hospitals across America, which are announced on Match Day next month.
A governor doesn’t have much to do directly with Match Day, but we think Edwards is right to draw attention to it this year, as the Legislature and the new administration face Louisiana’s most catastrophic budget outlook in a generation.
“In spite of the historic budget crisis, we are working diligently with the Legislature to ensure the long-term success of the LSU Health Sciences Centers and their residency training programs,” Edwards said. “I want potential applicants across this country to know our commitment.”
While he was talking about the public medical schools in New Orleans and Shreveport, the importance of Match Day reaches into every community in the state. Residents serve in hospitals throughout Louisiana.
Community leaders in Lafayette and Baton Rouge understand, as well as those in New Orleans and Shreveport, that the residents choosing to continue their training in a city are likely to stay there upon completion of residency. The governor said a majority of them typically do, and often it is more like 70 percent — and those are the doctors of tomorrow for those communities. That applies to the Tulane University medical graduates as well as those from LSU.
While we applaud the governor for making a public statement of support, an overarching reality is that Louisiana is in a worldwide competition for talent in all sorts of fields, but particularly the medical professions and high-tech industries.
That talent search is not limited to whether a medical school graduate chooses a residency in Baton Rouge or Birmingham, Alabama. An array of fields in high-growth industries are based upon higher education. Graduates are recruited by companies abroad as well as in this country.
It made headlines when The Advocate reported about a top athletic prospect at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston who was reconsidering his choice because of budget cuts. The decisions of medical school graduates are different and perhaps will not attract so much attention, but those cities that provide an attractive place to live and practice medicine are healthier in more ways than one.
Too often, in the State Capitol as elsewhere, we talk about the funding of institutions, but where Louisiana has really missed its chance in the past seven years is in funding quality colleges for smart young people who can make a profound difference in the future.
Match Day is once a year, but the consistent and aggressive funding of Louisiana’s higher education institutions is vital to making matches between graduates and careers all over the state.