Graduating students at the UC Davis School of Medicine cried tears of relief, shrieked in surprise and grinned with joy on Match Day – the day the rest of the world called Friday – during a ceremony where they opened envelopes to find out which U.S. residency program had selected each of them.
“It’s a single time where everyone opens up an envelope at the same time across the country to find out if they’ve matched in internal medicine or surgery or pediatrics,” said Dr. Mark Henderson, associate dean for admissions at UC Davis Medical School. “In addition, they learn where they’re going to end up spending the next three, four or five years – what hospital and what city.”
UC Davis officials said the contents of the envelopes are a well-guarded secret at medical schools around the nation. The UCD event brought together students, their parents and other relatives, their friends and mentors, faculty, staff as well as medical center physicians.
In a speech just before students picked up their letters, they got some advice from Dr. Lars Berglund, interim dean of the medical school: “I’m sure you’re focused on where you are heading and the future you’re going into, but your future and success in residency and beyond is determined by much more. It’s determined by your values, expertise, compassion and tenacity. Let these qualities continue to guide you wherever you are. Let them guide you in how you treat people. Let them define your residency, your career and the impact you have on your patients.”
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Established in 1952, the nonprofit National Resident Matching Program was created upon the request of medical students who wanted a fair, orderly way to match applicants’ preferences for U.S. residency positions with those of residency program directors.
A record number of applicants, 38,376 to be exact, applied for positions through the program this year. There were 35,185 spots. Although there are more applicants than positions, the number of positions is the highest in the program’s history. If students do not find a match in this main match round, there will be a supplemental round in May.
By examining data from the national match program, medical and labor market experts can assess the workforce supply. For instance, this year was the first since 2009 that saw a decline of graduates from evidence-based medical schools seeking residencies in family medicine. However, a record number of osteopathic students sought residencies in the specialty.
When the speeches were over at the UCD ceremony, their faculty and administrators serenaded them with a song, one stanza of which asked, “Matchmaker, matchmaker, please be discrete, I hate the cold, I hate the sleet. I need the Jacuzzi and thongs on my feet; O make me a perfect match.”
The performance and lyrics won laughter and lots of applause. When it was over, students hurried over to tables where they picked up their envelopes before a 10-second countdown ushered in the moment to unseal them. Then came the tear of paper, shouts of joy, a babble of voices, hugs and the whiz-bang of tiny confetti poppers. Smartphones captured the moments, and some students ran outside to call parents who couldn’t make it to the ceremony.
Michael Shodiya reached out to his parents in Los Angeles. When he told his parents, aunts and uncles that he will be returning home to practice internal medicine at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, he said, they screamed and yelled. He said they told him they had been practicing a little name-it-and-claim-it theology.
“My uncle and my mom, they went to the hospital and walked around there and prayed over it, ‘Let Michael come back here,’” he said. “Their prayers have been answered. When you go to medical school, you cannot do it without your dearest friends and family and your mentors.”
Shodiya, who was born in Lagos, Nigeria, said he had volunteered at Harbor-UCLA for about 18 months before he attended medical school at UC Davis. He said he earned admission to several medical schools but chose UCD after visiting and seeing the spirit of collaboration and cooperation among first-year medical students he met.
He said he’d wanted to be a doctor since he was a small child in Nigeria, where many people didn’t have access to health care.
“We don’t have health insurance system,” he said. “You pay as you go. You can only go to the hospital if you can pay cash. I’ve seen young kids and families die of diseases that we can avoid – malaria, cholera – because they don’t have money to go to the hospital. Since that time, I knew I wanted to do something to help the community.”
He said he’s excited to be practicing at Harbor-UCLA because he feels he will be able to build trust with the many marginalized people in communities around the hospital. He’ll be joined at Harbor-UCLA by his fellow fourth-year medical school student Karenee Demery. She said she’ll be a resident in the obstetrics-gynecology department.
Demery, a Merced resident, said: “At a young age, I was exposed to the medical field and I felt like I could make a difference in my community and that was the way I was going to do it. Medical school has definitely been difficult. I had a great support system and worked very hard to get through it.”
Chance Anderson said Match Day was the culmination of 10-plus years of hard work. He will be practicing emergency medicine at LAC+USC Medical Center in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.
His parents, John Anderson and Brigitte Carroll-Anderson, drove to Sacramento on Thursday from Los Angeles, so they could be there at 9 a.m. when their son opened his envelope. They said that, once their son graduated from high school, he made up his mind to focus and persevere through the work he had to do to achieve a lifelong dream.
“He worked,” John Anderson said, “and his perseverance is just amazing, just his drive his sacrifices.”