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Meeting your Match online: Virtual Match Day replaces traditional reveal

Screenshot of video conference with dozens of people connected
Students, faculty, and the rest of the UT Southwestern community came together virtually to hold a modified Match Day in response to health concerns over COVID-19.

Each year, UT Southwestern looks forward to honoring our medical students as they mark the important milestone of Match Day. However, due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19, UT Southwestern was unable to celebrate Match Day 2020 publicly as a community and instead held a virtual celebration to recognize the Class of 2020. Despite the challenging circumstances that prevented coming together as a group, we hope students recognize the collective pride we share in your achievements.

Match Day for UT Southwestern Medical School students and others nationwide looked much different this year. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, celebrations of this momentous educational milestone went virtual.

Related Video: See students' virtual celebration


Each year, fourth-year medical students complete applications and interviews for numerous residency programs in the medical field of their choosing. The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) then uses an algorithm to determine the highest match based off rankings given by both students and programs. The 2020 Main Residency Match is the largest in history with increases both in the number of applicants and positions, including more than 40,000 resident physician applicants across the country, according to the NRMP.

In prior years, UT Southwestern senior students marked this important event by coming together with their classmates, families, mentors, and advisers. The soon-to-be doctors would open designated personal envelopes and discover where they would train as residents for the next three to seven years. This year, in order to abide by the current restriction of gatherings at UT Southwestern, the traditional large-scale event was canceled, reflecting the institution’s commitment to protect public health. Instead, it was replaced with compassion and understanding from the senior medical students and the concerted efforts of Medical School leadership and staff to ensure these students were celebrated.

Group of students wearing shirts with different colors according to their college
Although students could not gather for a traditional Match Day group photo, students are shown here representing the six academic colleges earlier in the academic year.

“I have not seen one expression of frustration or anger, but rather an understanding that the current state is needed to protect others” said Dr. Melanie S. Sulistio, Associate Dean for Student Affairs, regarding her observations of the senior students in the past week. “Their attitudes reflect the profession they chose, where compassion, integrity, and serving the greater good takes precedent.”

To recognize them, UT Southwestern found alternate ways to celebrate. Instead of the in-person reveal, a virtual meeting was created where students could join Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, UT Southwestern President; Dr. W. P. Andrew Lee, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost, and Dean of the Medical School; and Dr. Charles Ginsburg, Vice Provost and Senior Associate Dean for Education, along with many other faculty, to watch the countdown clock and hear the drumroll leading up to the moment of the reveal, a UT Southwestern tradition. Dr. Blake Barker, Associate Dean for Student Affairs, described it best: “Technology offered us a means to celebrate together. No matter the current public health situation, medicine is about partnership and teamwork, and this allowed us to reflect these principles.”

Therefore, on Friday, March 20, Match Day went entirely virtual, and 225 medical students learned where they would train as residents through one long-awaited email. Many joined the virtual group celebration, others chose private gatherings, and even more shared their announcements utilizing technology and social media.

While Match Day 2020 at UT Southwestern and around the nation appeared much different than in years past, it still reflected both the spirit of the Medical School community and medicine itself. It honored hard work and achievement and brought individuals together in a unique way that reflected the selflessness of medical professionals in this era of COVID-19. Of the 225 students who matched, 51 will serve their residencies at UT Southwestern.

Dr. Angela Mihalic, Dean of Medical Students and Associate Dean for Student Affairs, summarized the occasion: “In this time, we need to rally together, support each other, and find ways to celebrate life.” UT Southwestern Match Day did just that.    

Chart showing distribution of students

For 2020, the top five residency specialties selected by UTSW graduates were:

  1. Internal Medicine
  2. Radiology
  3. Emergency Medicine, Surgery (tie)
  4. Family Medicine, Pediatrics (tie)
  5. Anesthesiology

Medical school is a marathon that tests students’ mettle, but the feeling of triumph awaiting those who cross the finish line and find their perfect match makes the struggle worthwhile. Several medical students from the Class of 2020 reflected on their time at UT Southwestern, described what Match Day means to them, and shared their reactions upon learning where they are headed next. Read their Match stories here.

Pie chart showing matches to UTSW programs


For a list of the students and their matches by specialty, see the full match list.

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