Imagine not knowing where you are going to live or work for the next four years of your life. You know you are headed somewhere and it’s going to be a challenge, but your future is pretty much up in the air. Then you open an envelope, and there is your destination on an 8½ by 11 inch sheet of white paper.
That is the reality for medical students as they approach graduation and “Match Day” – a ceremony where they find out where their four-year residency training programs will be. They have made their preferences known by applying to hospitals and schools of their choice, but there are no guarantees.
Their life, and that of their families, is on hold until they see that piece of paper for the first time – which happens in the company of their peers and instructors, as well as family members.
That was the scene Friday afternoon at the UConn School of Medicine, as more than 90 students found out their destinies, in a ceremony filled with cheers, hugs, sighs of relief and, yes, some tears of all types.
Through the National Resident Matching Program, students are assigned to a specific residency training program for the following year. Each year in March, medical schools across the country hold this type of ceremony.
Seventy-one percent of the UConn students were matched with one of their top three choices, while 99 percent received a match. In addition to UConn Health, students are also on their way to other prestigious sites like Yale New Haven Hospital, Tufts Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Hospital, NYU School of Medicine, the University of North Carolina Hospitals, and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
“Match Day is one of the highlights of the academic year,” said David Henderson, dean of the School of Medicine. “It is clearly the most joyous day on the academic calendar. There is very little that rivals the celebratory air that characterizes the day, and the celebration is shared by the entire medical school community.”
At least two of the graduating medical students have a first child on the way, which put even more pressure on Match Day.
Future mom Lauren Branche-James said she was taking it all in stride. “I’ve learned to let things run their course and every time I felt nervous, I remember that everything happens for a reason,” said Branche-James, who found out she will do her four-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology right at UConn Health.
She and her husband Matthew are expecting a boy in late April and have already selected a name – Therence. Matthew, who works at the UConn Center for Aging, joined his wife at the ceremony, along with her mother Cecelia Allen-Branche.
Andrea Matthews, who is also expecting a baby this spring, is going into family medicine and her residency, too, will also be at UConn Health.
She and fiancé Johnnie McKnight are expecting a girl in early May, right before graduation. McKnight and Matthews’ mother Virginia Class-Matthews attended Friday’s event.
“I felt confident that I would get UConn, but you never know what is going to happen,” said Matthews. “You try to plan your life in medical school, but it’s hard because you don’t know where you are going to end up. We bought a house here, but we just didn’t know. It’s been a long road.”
The Match Day ceremony ends as quickly as it begins, as students and families head out to celebrate, and staff go back to work.
Henderson, the dean, observed that Match Day also provides first-, second-, and third-year students a glimpse of what’s to come. “It’s interesting to see their emotions,” he said.
As for the rest of the day, Matthews was going out to eat at a Mediterranean restaurant with her family and then just “chill out. No partying for me.”
“I’ve got some baby shower presents to open!” she said with a broad smile.