On March 15, Stanford medical students nervously awaited the moment they could find out where they had matched for their residencies.
March 15, 2019 - By Julie Greicius
Four-hundred flutes for sparkling wine and cider lined the tables, awaiting the morning’s celebratory toast. Hundreds of red, gold and white balloons were suspended on the ceiling like a held breath. With their loved ones close by, 85 Stanford medical students were about to learn where they would train to be doctors over the next several years.
Match Day, the most suspenseful day of the year for medical students, is the day that medical students nationwide open envelopes at the same time — on the West Coast, that means 9 a.m. — revealing where they will spend their residencies. This year, Match Day fell on March 15.
Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, addressed the gathering, at the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge, about 8:30 a.m., encouraging students to recognize the support of their friends and family not just today but throughout their upcoming careers.
“Personal resilience and the resilience we build up through our friends and our family is always going to be a constant force enabling us to remain vibrant and engaged and healthy ourselves as we seek to improve the health of those who entrust their care to us,” Minor said. “This is yet the next stage in what we know is going to be — already has been and will continue to be — a brilliant career for each of you. We couldn’t be more proud of you as you enter into this match process.”
In the moments leading up to the big reveal, anticipation was high.
A long road
“It’s been a long road to get to this point — not just the years of medical school, but the many months of applying and interviewing for residency,” said Nathaniel Fleming, a fifth-year medical student from Eugene, Oregon. Fleming and fellow matching medical student Veronica Manzo met and married during medical school at Stanford, and were both hoping the envelopes held the same destination for them — she in internal medicine, he in neurology. “I’m ready to take the next step,” Fleming said.
“Nervous” was how Rebecca Gao described herself ahead of Match Day. Her desired specialty, otolaryngology, “has a projected 40 percent match rate this year, so just being able to match anywhere at all is difficult,” she said. Her husband — an engineer at Tesla who would be going with her to wherever her residency would be — and her mother were at her side.
Mariposa Garth-Pelly was a nurse before starting medical school at Stanford four years ago. Match Day would mark a major turning point in her journey to becoming a family medicine physician. With her husband, Sam Kim, and her parents, Celine Pele and Charles Garth, close by, Garth-Pelly prepared for what the envelope had in store for her.
Neil Gesundheit, MD, senior associate dean for medical education, was attending his 14thMatch Day event at Stanford. “Given the level of student stress, I’m proud to still be standing,” he quipped. Still, Gesundheit said, he enjoys celebrating with the students once they know where they’ve matched. “I enjoy the lower stress and tremendous relief the students feel, whether they’ve matched at their first choice or their 12th.”
A complete match
In his remarks before the reveal, Gesundheit noted some statistics that students would soon learn for themselves. “We have a complete match today,” Gesundheit said, meaning that all of the students had been matched to a residency program. “This only happens about once in a decade here at Stanford. So we’re very proud.” It was especially impressive, Gesundheit noted, because this year’s match had a lot of people going into competitive subspecialties.
Stanford’s 85 students matched in 19 fields of training: 15 in internal medicine, nine in dermatology, seven in general surgery, seven in obstetrics and gynecology, seven in anesthesiology, six in psychiatry, four in neurological surgery, four in radiology/interventional radiology, four in orthopaedic surgery, four in otolaryngology, three in pediatrics, three in emergency medicine, three in radiation oncology, two in plastic surgery, two in urology, two in family medicine, one in neurology, one in child neurology and one in ophthalmology.
About 25 percent of the matching students will be staying at Stanford for their residencies, Gesundheit said. Another 25 percent will be staying in California but not at Stanford. The rest of the students will go to 13 other states.
It was the sixth Match Day at Stanford for Mijiza Sanchez, EdD, MPA, associate dean for medical student affairs. Her team — including student life manager Tanicia Perry and operations coordinator Dale Lemmerick — produces the event each year, ensuring it is unique for each class and also supportive of every student’s unique experience on such a fateful day.
“Match Day is a very highly charged and emotional event,” Sanchez said. “We provide rooms so that students can open their envelopes in private if they don’t want to do it in the large room.” From orientation to graduation, Sanchez and her team support the students’ progress. “The Office of Medical Student Affairs plays an integral role in each of the matching students reaching this milestone,” she said. “It’s a very happy day for all of us.”
Christian O’Donnell, a fourth-year medical student who had been deployed to Iraq in the 1stInfantry Division in 2004, said he was “excited to move to the next phase of training.” His wife, Raphaelle, was at his side, and his parents and mother-in-law had also flown in from Boston and Chicago, respectively, to be there.
The envelope, please
As the hour approached, students were directed to the four corners of the room, where their academic advising deans — Susan Knox, MD, PhD, associate professor of radiation oncology; Nounou Taleghani, MD, PhD, clinical associate professor of emergency medicine; Eric Sibley, MD, PhD, professor of pediatric gastroenterology; and Amy Ladd, MD, professor of orthopaedic surgery and the Elsbach-Richards Professor of Surgery — were standing by with the envelopes. After the final seconds of countdown, the balloons dropped from the ceiling and students tore open their red envelopes.
Looking surprisingly calm, O’Donnell learned he’d be staying at Stanford to train in anesthesiology, with a focus on critical care. He smiled, visibly relieved and happy, and embraced his wife. His father’s eyes welled with tears, and his family cheered.
Garth-Pelly got the news that she matched at the Institute for Family Health/Mount Sinai family medicine residency program in Harlem. “I’m thrilled!” she said. She’ll be finishing up packing and moving to New York with her husband next weekend.
“I matched at Michigan!” Rebecca Gao said. She got her first choice, adding, “I’m already planning ahead for a busy but rewarding new few years.” Her husband, she said, was “even more relieved I matched at Michigan so he can find a job!”
Fleming and Manzo were beaming, having matched at the University of California-San Francisco together.
Gesundheit led the room in a toast to students and families, and then invited everyone to enjoy a catered brunch. Students went on hugging, cheering and sharing their news with each other throughout the morning. They’d reconvene in the evening for a celebratory dinner.
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