Family Medicine: Health Policy Scholar Reflects on National Match Day Residency Decision

Lamercie Saint-Hilaire is a graduating RWJF Health Policy Scholar, who will receive a Doctor of Medicine degree and Certificate in Health Policy on May 18th during the 138th Commencement Exercises. During National Match Day-held March 15 of this year-Saint-Hilaire learned that she matched in Family Medicine at the University of California-San Francisco, the number one ranked residency program in family medicine. Saint-Hilaire, along with 88 Meharry medical school seniors, anxiously awaited the announcement as part of an annual tradition when fourth-year medical students across the country learn where they will live and train as medical residents.

The Center for Health Policy caught up with Ms. Saint-Hilaire to chat about her match day experience and what lies ahead for her as a physician:

RWJF Center for Health Policy: What was your reaction to hearing that you were matched with UCSF?    

Lamercie Saint Hilaire: It was surreal! I was very surprised. I don't think it sunk in until I walked off the stage and hugged my family and friends. I became overwhelmed with a sense of joy, accomplishment and appreciation of those around me.

RWJF: What were your top three choices for residency programs?

Lamercie: University of California-San Francisco, University of California-Davis in Sacramento, CA, and University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. All three were Family Medicine Residency programs.    

RWJF: What influenced your decision to pursue Family & Community Medicine as a specialty?

Lamercie: I am a first generation Haitian-American. I come from a poor background, and healthcare was not always an option for my family. At an early age, I knew I wanted to be a doctor for the sake of my family and to serve others. I knew I wanted to be a family physician since I matriculated into Meharry Medical College. I have enjoyed every rotation I have been on, whether it involved performing a well-child physical exam, scrubbing in on a hernia repair, delivering a baby, or managing a senior's diabetes. I look forward to the challenge of managing a multitude of medical conditions, unrestricted by patient demographics. I truly want to care for the whole patient and their entire family. Through Family Medicine I can fulfill all of my passions: patient education, continuity of care, preventive and integrative medicine. That is precisely why Family Medicine is the perfect fit for me.  

RWJF: How long is your residency program, and what are your plans after you complete the program?

Lamercie: Residency is three years. I have strong aspirations. I want to serve the underserved in my local and global community. In my practice of medicine, I plan to empower my patients to be advocates for their own health, prevent –even reverse– diseases, emphasize the importance of nutrition and healthy lifestyle, while practicing integrative medicine and comprehensive healthcare. I am also determined to be a leader in my community by participating in health policy, advocating for social justice, traveling abroad on medical mission trips and staying affiliated with an academic institution to educate future physicians. Ultimately, I am proud and excited to say that I am going to be a family physician.   

RWJF: Did the RWJF Health Policy Scholars Program have any impact on your medical school education?

Lamercie: I feel that the Health Policy Scholars Program had a great impact on my medical school education. I realized how important health policy is to my career and a physician and how little training medical students receive when it comes to health policy. I learned that health policy is an integral component of healthcare. I strongly feel that everything cannot be fixed in the doctor's office, and it takes an integrative and interdisciplinary approach in order to truly improve the health of a community; this includes prevention, education, and public health. I feel this program supplemented my education and provided a well-rounded introduction to the vast possibilities in health policy.

The course that affected me the most was the Summer Institute course with Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, a family physician, epidemiologist and professor. The course focused on frameworks, data tools, and policy interventions to name, measure, and address the impacts of racism on the health and well-being of the nation. We also read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and learned what happens when our government allows a public health issue to be taken advantage of by the prison industrial complex. The take home message I had was that institutionalized racism must be addressed when undertaking health disparities and public health.  

RWJF: How will you be spending your time off between graduation and the start of your program in July?

Lamercie: I plan to spend quality time with my family and friends in Florida (my home state) and Nashville since I will be moving across the country.