UCF medical student Hunter Hampton is passionate about helping people function better in their daily lives — especially those suffering from cancer pain. He continues to help his younger sister with physical rehabilitation after a bone cancer diagnosis several years ago forced surgeons to rebuild her shoulder.

Friday, he learned he will continue on that healing path as he matched into a physical medicine and rehabilitation residency at HCA Florida West Hospital in Pensacola, one of the newest programs in the UCF-HCA Healthcare Graduate Medical Education (GME) Consortium.

He says he’s excited to continue his graduate medical education with UCF and at a residency program he found innovative and passionate about education and patient care.

“I was so well trained at UCF,” he says. “And I want that stellar education to follow me in residency.”

Hampton is one of five UCF seniors who will do their residency training at UCF-HCA programs. With residency and fellowship programs from Pensacola to Greater Orlando, the UCF-HCA consortium is one of the fastest growing GME programs in the state and will be training more than 620 physicians by this summer. Those programs added more than 200 residents to their ranks Friday, which is National Match Day 2024, where thousands of medical students across the country learned where they will spend the next three to five years of their training.

Residency programs are a key to solving Florida’s physician shortage.

“One of our goals is to retain our students in our residencies, since we know physicians who do medical school and residency in-state are much more likely to stay in Florida when they complete their training,” says Stephen Cico, the UCF College of Medicine’s associate dean for graduate medical education and the UCF-HCA Graduate Medical Education Consortium’s designated institutional official.

A team from UCF Lake Nona Hospital, including the hospital’s leader, Wendy Brandon (far right) set up a tent at Match Day to welcome UCF students who had matched into UCF-HCA residencies.

Kelsey Manko is one of a record 16 students who matched into psychiatry as their specialty of choice. She will train in the UCF-HCA program based at HCA Florida Osceola Hospital and will also care for patients at the Orlando VA Medical Center and Nemours Children’s Health.

The UCF future psychiatrists say they are eager to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and understand how the pandemic impacted people’s mental health. The Class of 2024 was known as the COVID Class because students began their medical education at the height of the pandemic, spending their first year taking classes on Zoom.

“I love UCF,” she says. “They gave me a fantastic education and I am happy to be staying with a place that’s treated me well.”

Ross Taylor, chief medical officer for HCA’s Osceola facility, is excited to have UCF medical students joining the hospital as residents.

“HCA Florida Healthcare is honored to partner with UCF College of Medicine in providing graduate medical education programs in several specialties, and it is rewarding to have our residents return to begin their practice as physicians with us,” he says. “At HCA Florida Osceola Hospital, we are dedicated to ensuring our resident physicians are mentored, supported and respected during their time with us. Our goal is to keep these new doctors in Florida, and we are as excited as they are when they are matched to one of our hospitals.”