Match Day: An annual rite of passage for fourth-year med students

March 18, 2011

By C.J. Janovy

Richard Friesen
Richard Friesen is headed for a pediatrics residency at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

A raucous crowd of fourth-year medical students and their friends and families filled the University of Kansas Medical Center's Battenfeld Auditorium on Thursday, March 17 for the annual spring ritual known as Match Day — the date when all of the graduating medical students in the country find out where they'll be spending the next three or more years of their residency training.

Many of the students wore lucky green, and Mark Meyer, MD, associate dean for student affairs, joked in his opening remarks that everyone was gathered to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. But as KUMC Executive Vice Chancellor and KU School of Medicine Executive Dean Barbara Atkinson, MD, reminded the audience, this day was a milestone in the students' professional lives.

"Everyone who has been through this remembers it fondly — or perhaps not so fondly," Atkinson told the audience. "I want to offer my personal congratulations to all of you. We love you and we're going to miss you, but this is your day."

Samantha Machen Alsop on match day
Samantha Alsop is staying at KU for general surgery.

Beginning at exactly 11 a.m. Central Standard Time, more than 16,000 students across the country — including those at the KU School of Medicine-Wichita — heard their names and came to stages to open envelopes Academy Awards style.

This year a special first envelope went to Nicholas Cahoj, who wheeled his wife – in a hospital gown – to the stage with him. "Nick and his wife are proud parents," Meyer announced, "of a beautiful baby girl born at 5:12 this morning."

Cahoj's match: Family Medicine at Via Christi in Wichita. "If any of you match in peds let us know!" he said. 

The hour was filled with poignant moments as students brought babies, children, spouses and elderly relatives to the stage, and their colleagues cheered them on in the med school equivalent of March Madness.

"Excuse me if I barf or wet my pants," said one student before opening her envelope.

David Tran on match day

David Tran's 91-year-old grandmother watched as he learned he's going to MacNeal Memorial Hospital in Illinois for a transitional year and then to Emory University in Atlanta for physical medicine.

Getting into a residency program is more complex than a typical job application and interview. Graduating medical students file applications with hospitals and often trek across the country for on-site interviews with half-a-dozen or more residency programs.

Once the application and interviews are complete, the students submit a rank order list of the residency programs they would like to attend. The residency programs also file a rank order list of candidates, and the National Resident Matching Program then gets to work pairing candidates with programs.

Blair Wendlandt was ecstatic when she opened her envelope. "I was having trouble getting the words out," Wendlandt said later. She's headed to a residency in internal medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center, which was her first pick. "I'll have plenty of people to play with so I'm very excited," Wendlandt said.

Kayron Bradley was glad the matching process was over. For Bradley, her husband and two daughters, ages 7 and 10 weeks, the uncertainty wasn't easy.

Kimberly Carter on match day
Kimberly Carter: internal medicine at the Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education.

"The process was very stressful. There was a lot of stress on the whole family about selling the house and moving, but I got where we wanted, so it all worked out," Bradley said.

Bradley and her family can stay right where they are — she'll be joining Children's Mercy Hospital as a pediatrics resident.

Liliya Aznaurova is headed for San Antonio, Texas, a city she's visited once — for her residency interview. Aznaurova is no stranger to new places, though. Aznaurova and her family moved to Kansas City years ago from their home in Russia.

"I was anxious to find out where I was going and super excited for all of my classmates," Aznaurova said. "I can't wait for the warm weather!" Aznaurova will be an internal medicine resident at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center.

Kayron Bradley and family on match day
Kayron Bradley's daughter read the news: Her family is staying in Kansas City, where Bradley has a residency in pediatrics at Children's Mercy Hospital.

Aznaurova and her boyfriend, Tony Anderson, are looking forward to the move.

"First we'll be making a trip to check out San Antonio and looking to find a nice apartment," Aznaurova said. "Then I'll be excited to get my first paycheck to pay for that apartment!"

The crowd cheered when Uzochukwu Amadi read his fate: anesthesiology resident at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, Conn. Amadi's enthusiasm matched the crowd's.

"It's kind of surreal. All you gotta do is get in and shine. Guess I did," said the Belton, Mo., native.

Amadi's ready to head off to Connecticut, where he'll be close to family in New York City, Baltimore and Boston.

Courtney Huhn on Match Day

Courtney Huhn — and her family — will be staying at KU for her residency in Family Medicine.

He won't be headed back east until 2012, though, since he'll spend a transitional year at St. Johns Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis, Mo. A transitional year is something that's required by a lot of programs for highly specialized residencies such as anesthesiology.

Lance Larson and his wife Jamie, a nurse, met at the University of Kansas Medical Center. The two married last summer and spent the past year in Salina, where Lance was part of the Rural Track Program.

More than 100 names had been called and the box of envelopes on stage was nearly empty, and Lance still hadn't heard his name.

"I was worried he wasn't going to be called," Jamie said. "Maybe we were supposed to be at the Wichita ceremony."

He wasn't. Lance was the second-to-last name called, narrowly missing a chance to win the "Match Day lottery"  — a wad of cash pooled by the medical students, each banking they won't be the last name called.

Katherine Seymour on match day
Mark Meyer, MD, adjusted Katherine Seymour's mic so everyone could hear her match: Internal medicine/pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The last student to open their envelope wins the pool.

The money went to Bethany Duff, whose family accompanied her to the stage. "It was a great surprise to win the loot after an hour of sitting with my two little boys, who were getting hot and restless at that point," Duff said. "I will remember that moment forever." Duff is staying in Kansas City and completing her residency in Family Medicine — which is exactly what she wanted to do. "The faculty and residents in Family Medicine have been incredible to work with over the last four years," she said. "Why change when you have a good thing going?"

As in recent years, the KU School of Medicine sent a high number of students — 46 percent — into primary care residencies. This year, the national trend appears to be catching up with KU. Also trending upwards at KU this year were residencies in surgery (13) and pathology (7). And the Larsons weren't unique: Six couples matched and are staying in Kansas City, the highest number in recent memory.

Categories: School of Medicine

Last modified: Apr 04, 2013
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