For the first time in three years, medical students could gather on campus to mark the moment they would discover where they had matched for internships and residencies.
March 18, 2022 - By Mandy Erickson
In their first year at the Stanford University School of Medicine, Jane Thomas and Emily Tran — their last names alphabetically adjacent — were assigned to the same anatomy lab.
Love blossomed as they slowly dissected a cadaver, exposing arteries and extracting kidneys. In December of 2021, they married, taking the surname Thomas-Tran. As graduation neared and the time came to choose where they want to spend their residencies, what mattered most was that they be together.
On Match Day, March 18, surrounded by classmates and family members, the couple learned that they’re both headed to Seattle for residencies at the University of Washington — Emily Thomas-Tran in psychiatry and Jane Thomas-Tran in pediatrics.
“I’m so glad we’re going to the same place. I was so worried we’d end up in different cities,” Jane Thomas-Tran said. “And we’d have to fly on weekends to visit each other,” Emily Thomas-Tran added.
Match Day is when the National Resident Matching Program informs graduating medical students around the country where they will continue their training. Students interview at various residency and internship programs, then submit their top preferences to the NRMP. Admissions committees for residency programs also list their favorite candidates. Every year, the NRMP, using an algorithm to honor top choices as much as possible, announces the matches at 9 a.m. Pacific time on the third Friday in March. Couples like the Thomas-Trans can submit their preferences as a unit.
About an hour before the unveiling of residency assignments, graduating Stanford medical students and their family members and friends, along with faculty members, made their way to a tent on a lawn outside the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge. It was the first time in three years that students and family members were allowed to meet on campus as a group to celebrate Match Day. In 2020 and 2021, medical students learned about their residency acceptances via email and congratulated each other on Zoom to avoid spreading the coronavirus.
“You’re about to embark on yet another chapter of this amazing journey you set your sights on years and years ago,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, as the students waited, surrounded by friends and family, for the appointed hour. “Now, you’re going to be on the front lines of providing care.”
About 15 minutes before 9 a.m., the students gathered around their faculty advisers, who handed out red envelopes with the students’ names printed on them.
They headed back to their loved ones and, for a few tense minutes, waited, envelopes in hand. A clock counted down — “Ten, nine, eight …”; a bell rang; then, en masse, they opened their envelopes. A single sheet of paper revealed the name of the residency program and the specialty.
Neil Rens, an MD-MBA student, learned that he matched in anesthesiology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. It was his first choice: “I really liked the program and the people there,” he said. “I’m excited to be going.”
Cesar Marquez, an MD-PhD student, learned that he, his husband and their dog will head to Houston, where he’ll start a residency in radiation oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“I am overjoyed,” he said. MD Anderson was his first choice because of the quality of the program, the affordability of Houston and proximity to family, he said. “I’m also relieved to know where my future lies.”
After the flurry of envelope opening, students hugged their parents, posed for photographs with their letters and shared their fates with classmates. Once the excitement died down, they drifted toward the breakfast buffet, filling plates and picking up glasses of champagne.
Neil Gesundheit, MD, senior associate dean for medical education and the George DeForest Barnett Founders Professor in Medicine, offered a toast:
“To a world with less COVID, to a world with no war, to a world with more harmony both domestically and abroad. And to the graduating class of 2022, to your academic success and, most importantly, to your health and your happiness,” he said. “Cheers.”
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