Medical students open envelopes and glimpse their futures

A national event that places graduating medical students into residencies, Match Day is both a celebration and a nerve-wracking affair.

Rowza Tur Ramma receives hugs and congratulations after learning that she matched to a surgical residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
Norbert von der Groeben

The day they’d been waiting for dawned overcast and cool. But for the medical students gathered March 20 inside the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge, the atmosphere was anything but chilly.

Decorated with red balloons and packed with 77 anxious, soon-to-be-graduating medical students, who were surrounded by family members and friends, the second floor of the center teemed with excitement and nervous energy. It was Match Day, when medical students across the country are assigned to a residency where they’ll complete their medical training.

“Match Day is a clear milestone,” said Charles Prober, MD, senior associate dean for medical education at the School of Medicine. “This is such an important transition.”

Thousands of medical students gathered at the same time — which was 9 a.m. in California — to open envelopes assigning them to a residency for the next three to seven years. Nationwide, 35,000 U.S. and international medical students applied for 27,000 residency positions this year, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges.

At Stanford, Match Day kicked off with coffee and socializing before Prober assigned the students to separate rooms, where they would receive the all-important envelopes.

Calling home

For Rowza Tur Rumma, the day was both exciting and nerve-wracking. “I think it’s hard to not have the jambalaya of those issues in our minds,” she said. Clutching her red envelope and a cell phone, she dialed repeatedly, trying to get in touch with her parents in Bangladesh to share the moment with them.

Brindha Bavan, Mia Kanak and Rishi Mediratta show off their Match Day envelopes. Bavan got an ob/gyn residency at Stanford, Kanak matched to a pediatrics residency at Boston Children's Hospital and Mediratta will be at Stanford in pediatrics.
Norbert von der Groeben

Finally, with her father on the phone, Rumma slit open the envelope and a relieved grin spread across her face. “It’s Brigham,” she said, her first choice. Brigham and Women’s Hospital offers opportunities for its surgical residents to specialize in global health, just the program Rumma was hoping for. As part the application process, she was interviewed by Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, the well-known author and surgeon. At the interview, she discussed her work during a summer program in Bangladesh, where she helped implement and adapt a World Health Organization checklist of steps to reduce surgical complications.

Although at first she was too nervous to open the envelope, Mia Kanak also scored her first choice: a pediatrics residency at Boston Children’s Hospital. She was attracted to the program because it provides an opportunity to specialize in treating underserved children. Surrounded by her parents, who flew in from Tokyo, and her fiancé, from the East Coast, Kanak beamed: “I’m really excited,” she said. With a master’s degree in public health, she wants to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“I feel like it’s very meaningful to get to take care of a population that has a whole life ahead of them,” Kanak said.

Mark Terrelonge opens his envelope as friends and classmates capture his reaction to news that he'll be doing a neurology residency at UCSF.
Norbert von der Groeben

Crisscrossing the country

To nail these prestigious spots, both of the women and their peers, had to travel the country for several interviews: This year’s class completed more than 900, an average of 12 each, according to Neil Gesundheit, MD, MPH, associate dean for advising. The students and the residency programs list their top choices, and the nonprofit National Resident Matching Program uses an algorithm to make the residency designations.

Boston is a popular destination for Stanford medical students: 15 of them are bound for Massachusetts, but Stanford is also a favorite spot, with 19 students, or nearly a quarter of this year’s matchees, staying put.

The most popular specialty was general medicine, with 12 students, followed closely by anesthesiology, with 10.

With hugs all around and a few tears after the envelopes had all been opened, the students and their families gathered in Berg Hall, where glasses of champagne and a breakfast buffet awaited them.

“I want to say how proud all of us at Stanford Medicine are of your accomplishments today,” Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the medical school, said. “And now, on behalf of everyone, a toast to your success, to the impact you’re going to have on the lives of so many people moving forward: Best wishes!” 

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