KU School of Medicine students learn where they will do their residencies

March 17, 2017

By Greg Peters

Sida Niu celebrates his match.

When Jill Grothusen took to the stage of Battenfeld Auditorium on March 17 to find out where she was headed for her residency, 4-year-old Esme and 2-year-old Ellis were right there cheering mom on during the Match Day Ceremony at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Grothusen, who is going to Valley Medical Center in Renton, Washington, for a residency in family medicine, was one of 124 students on the KU Medical Center campus to be matched. Seventy-two students matched from the KU School of Medicine-Wichita campus and another five matched from the KU School of Medicine-Salina campus during similar ceremonies.

Match Day is an annual rite of passage for medical students across the country. Matches are made by the nonprofit National Resident Matching Program using an algorithm to determine the pairings based on preferences submitted by the applicants and the residency programs. Students submit their preferences after interviewing with various residency programs.

On Match Day at KU, the envelopes are torn open, revealing to the doctors-in-training where their next stops will be on the path to becoming practicing physicians, with residencies lasting from three to seven years, depending on the specialty.

KU prides itself on being one of the nation's leaders in producing primary care doctors, and this year was no exception with 43 percent of the students matching in this specialty. And many of the students will be staying nearby for their residencies. Of the 201 total students matched, 58 will be in Kansas for their residencies.
Grothusen's path to medicine was a little more twisting than some.

After growing up in Scott City, Kansas, she majored in biochemical and nutritional science with a minor in exercise science at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. She's always had an interest in medicine and started her career on the business side, working for a San Francisco-based consulting firm that helped bring medical products to market. But the world of PowerPoints and number-crunching proved unfulfilling, so she started working with some amazing physicians running breast cancer clinical trials at the University of California-San Francisco, and that sparked her interest in practicing medicine.

Grothusen started medical school in Maryland but transferred to the KU School of Medicine after Esme's birth. She said juggling a husband and two small children along with medical school can be difficult, but the challenges ultimately make her a better doctor.

"Obviously, being a parent means I don't have as much time to study as some of my classmates, however, I think you just become more efficient at how to use your time," she said. "I've always been someone who does better when I'm really busy. I have had to prioritize things differently, but it is worth it. I also think it has made it easier to relate to patients, especially in pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology."

In Salina, those matching refer to themselves the Fab 5. These are the five fourth-year medical students who matched on Friday and will be heading out for their residencies. Among them is Theresia Neill, who grew up on a small dairy farm in Greenwood County in southeastern Kansas, where she thought she would likely end up caring for animals and not humans.

"I thought for a very long time that it would be veterinary medicine, but somewhere along the way it turned into human medicine, and I have enjoyed the journey thus far," she said. "I'm so lucky to have had my family and my small class of five along with me on this journey the past four years."

For Neill, Salina has been a perfect fit, highlighted by her clinical experiences in rural settings. She also has enjoyed her time working at a volunteer clinic for at-risk women and children, which is also the only family shelter in Salina. And as a change of pace, Neill spent a summer as a medic at Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

She hopes to one day return to her rural Kansas roots to practice full-spectrum family medicine, including obstetrics. Until then, Neill is staying in Salina at the Smoky Hill Medicine Resident Program, where she'll be specializing in family practice.

For Andrea Petersen, a student in the KU School of Medicine-Wichita, landing a residency is like going into the family business. Both her father and grandfather were physicians, so she knew from an early age she wanted to be involved in health care. After being diagnosed with Type I diabetes at age 4, Petersen spent a lot of time around medical professionals, and that further piqued her interest in becoming a doctor.

She also found a specialty at an early age after she began working a nursing home at 16. All through high school and college she worked as a certified nurse's aide, which included time in a nursing home setting, an Alzheimer's disease unit and providing at-home care for the elderly.

"I absolutely fell in love with it," she said. "By the time I became a medical student I was pretty sure that I wanted to pursue a career in geriatrics."

Petersen matched with the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver where she will be working on a residency in internal medicine. After that she plans to land a fellowship in geriatrics.

In many ways, Sida Niu has traveled the world, while at the same time never really leaving home. Niu's mother left a successful career as a physician in Beijing for a job as a medical researcher at KU Medical Center in the hope that her 8-year-old son would have more opportunities in the United States. They settled in an apartment just down the street from the medical center, and he attended Frank Rushton Elementary School in the neighborhood. Niu remembers thinking at the time how smart and old the medical students looked walking by their apartment in their white lab coats.

Fast forward two decades, and now Niu is the one in a white coat. He moved into a house on the same street as the apartment where he and his mother began life in the United States.

"It's a surreal feeling knowing that I am one of those medical students about to graduate and start fulfilling one of my childhood dreams," said Niu.

Unlike many of his medical school classmates, Niu found out early that he had been matched with the residency program in urology at the University of Kansas Hospital. While doing his urology rotation as a student, Niu realized that urology provided him with a balance of the immediate satisfaction provided by adept surgical procedures with the lasting gratification of successfully managing diseases through medicine. He appreciates the trust patients put in their urologists, and along the way his mentors helped him develop a passion for the field of urology.

And even though Match Day didn't hold much drama for Niu, he was excited to share the experience with the classmates with whom he has worked hard, studied hard and played hard during the past four years."I have been fortunate enough to make some incredible friends who have challenged me and motivated me along the way," he said. "We shared many laughs, cries, tears and beers together.  I honestly could not have asked to have a better group of friends to share this journey with."  

Click to see more images from the ceremony.

Match Day video: Kansas City, Salina and Wichita.

Last modified: Apr 11, 2017