Match Day delivers on drama

By Rachel Skei Donihoo 

April 2010

As the electronic scoreboard ticked off the seconds and the snare drum rolled, 207 fourth-year UT Southwestern medical students and their families waited anxiously on March 18 on the basketball courts of the Bryan Williams, M.D. Student Center. It was national Match Day, and these future physicians were about to learn where they would launch the next phase of their medical training.

The students gathered under banners bearing the names of their chosen specialties. At precisely 11 a.m., medical school mentors handed out sealed envelopes containing the students’ “fate,” as senior Meghan McDonald put it.

Perhaps none anticipated the big moment more than M.D./Ph.D. students Melissa and Bryan Young, who were there to celebrate with their 11-month-old son, Jackson. For the couple, who met and married while students at UT Southwestern, the day marked the end of eight years of rigorous training.

Bryan and Melissa Young, and especially 11-month-old son Jackson, are ecstatic at their match with Yale School of Medicine. The M.D./Ph.D. students met and married while at UT Southwestern.

“This is a great day — but we’re both wrestling with our anxiety,” said Mrs. Young. “We’ve spent months interviewing all over the country, so it’s extremely exciting, but nerve-racking. Wherever we go — and it could be anywhere — it will be a new life for us and for our son, so this is a huge day for all three of us.”

The Youngs were thrilled when they finally opened their envelopes, which revealed they both had matched with their first choice — the Yale School of Medicine. Mrs. Young, an Oregon native, will specialize in radiation oncology; and Mr. Young, from Oklahoma, will focus on internal medicine.

Grinning broadly, Mr. Young said, “We couldn’t have asked for anything better. We’ve waited a long time for this, and I feel like we’re finally on our way.”

Also relieved by her envelope’s contents was Ms. McDonald, who matched in anesthesiology at UT Southwestern. She and her fiance, oral surgery resident Dr. Wayne Michael, had their fingers crossed that the match wouldn’t put them in different cities. With a May 22 wedding on the horizon, a lot was riding on Match Day.

“Oh, wow, now I can breathe a sigh of relief,” said Ms. McDonald as she posed for photos with Dr. Michael, who came straight from an overnight rotation to be with her. “This has been an amazing four years, and it’s hard to express all the emotions that are running through me today. I love UT Southwestern, and I’m so happy and grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity to continue my career here. This is exactly where I want to be.”

Dr. James Wagner, associate dean for student affairs, said medical school class sizes are growing and an increasing number of international students are participating.

According to the National Resident Matching Program — which aligns students’ preferences with the preferences of participating institutions — 23,670 students applied nationwide this year, and 21,749 of them received matches, which were organized by a computer algorithm. The number of first-year residency positions increased slightly from last year, to 22,809.

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UT Southwestern students placed particularly well, Dr. Wagner noted. “Our students placed in some of the most prestigious programs in all corners of the United States, and we couldn’t be happier,” he said. “Match Day is the culmination of the blood, sweat and tears these students have poured into medical school, and it’s wonderful to see them embark on such bright futures. This is a day that is celebrated not only by the graduating seniors, but by their families, friends and the faculty members who have supported them along the way.”

Dr. Angela Mihalic, associate dean for student affairs, noted that UT Southwestern students seemed particularly interested in anesthesiology and radiology. Nationally, less than 1 percent of students expressed an interest in radiology, and about 4 percent chose anesthesiology. At UT Southwestern, that number was nearly 8 percent for each specialty.

“We are so proud of how well our students did in the match this year,” said Dr. Mihalic. “Many of our students matched in very competitive disciplines; and in all disciplines, many matched at the most competitive residency programs in the country. It was thrilling to hear student after student express delight in having received their first choice. It was wonderful to see them celebrate a milestone in their professional careers, as they now choose their future path in medicine.”

Nigerian native Rebecca Adelagum jumped and screamed, waving her letter in the air. The budding anesthesiologist matched to Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, her top choice. Mrs. Adelagun was hoping not to relocate her husband and 7-month-old son outside of Texas, and is thrilled to be stationed in Houston, where she has family and “lots of help and love for my son.”

“I’m very, very happy,” she said as she hugged fellow students and received congratulatory calls on her cell phone. “I’ve come a long way to get here, and this truly is one of the biggest milestones in my life. Now it’s time to start packing!”

David Morris of Colleyville also had a move on his mind. “California! Perfect weather,” he exclaimed upon reading the news that he was headed to the University of California, San Diego, for an internal medicine residency.

Above the cheers, Dr. Mihalic, a 1995 graduate of UT Southwestern, smiled and said, “Match Day always brings back so many memories for me. I remember so clearly how I felt – the nervousness, excitement and hope. This is a pivotal time in the lives of these medical students, and one they will never forget. As faculty members, we all recognize what a thrill and honor it is to watch them embark on their journeys.”