Match Day: An Emotional Milestone For Medical School Graduates
The suspense will end precisely at noon on March 17, when 97 Johns Hopkins University medical students will learn where they will begin their careers as doctors after graduation this spring. Surrounded by family members, classmates and professors, fourth-year students at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine will open official letters to find out the hospital where they have been accepted for their residency.
The Match Day event, which is a dramatic milestone in the lives of medical students, will take place on the 2nd floor of the Armstrong Medical Education Building, 1600 McElderry Street in Baltimore. The opening of the envelopes at noon will be preceded by a brunch beginning at 10:30 a.m.
Each year, the emotional Match Day ceremony is marked by hugs, high fives, cheers and occasionally a few tears. Since this year’s Match Day falls on St. Patrick’s Day, the envelopes containing each student’s residency program information will be pulled out of a “pot of gold,” and the envelopes will be in the shape of gold coins. Rising from the pot of gold will be a rainbow of color in the form of hundreds of balloons filling up the atrium where the ceremony will take place.
Members of the Hopkins Medical Student Society (the student government association) also have decorated the area with shamrocks, and the students will wear green T-shirts. “We’re excited about Match Day falling on St. Patrick’s Day and hope it will be a lucky day for the graduates,” says Nathan Skelley, president of the Medical Student Society whose family has Irish roots and many ties to Ireland.
There are 44 women and 55 men in the 2011 graduating class. All but two will be entering a residency program next year. The most popular specialties they wish to go into are: internal medicine, pediatrics, anesthesiology, orthopedic surgery, radiology and general surgery. Internal medicine (a gateway to other medical specialties) and pediatrics have traditionally been the most sought-after specialties for Hopkins medical school graduates over the past two decades.
Graduating from medical school will launch a second career for David Liu, 33. Liu has an M.S. degree in computer science and worked at Amazon.com in Seattle as a software engineer and analyst for 3 years before coming to Hopkins. His job involved analyzing the buying behavior and purchasing patterns of customers to suggest other products they might want to buy. He decided to change careers in order to do something that would be more meaningful.
“While at Amazon, I had a direct impact on the shopping experience of tens of millions of people. But at heart, it wasn’t something I was passionate about,” says Liu. “I realized that taking care of people was important to me—that serving people in a one-to-one fashion and having a personal impact on their lives would be more meaningful.”
Liu grew up in the Los Angeles area but spent four years, from 5th to 8th grade, in Taiwan, where his father, who is a surgeon, lives. He’s interested in an internal medicine residency and eventually becoming a medical oncologist.
Another graduating student, Lorenza Frisoni, grew up in a small town near Venice, Italy, and was the first person in her family to graduate from college. Ten years ago, while she was in pharmacy school in Italy, she received a scholarship to come to Philadelphia to do research on autoimmune diseases. There, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania took her on patient rounds and showed her how they cared for patients.
“That introduction to patient care was very interesting to me,” Frisoni says. “It’s what made me want to go to medical school.” She is hoping to be matched with an internal medicine program and eventually specialize in infectious diseases or pulmonary/critical care. Frisoni says her whole family will travel from Italy to attend her graduation in May. “My family is very proud,” she says.
Match Day takes place on the same day every year at medical schools around the country. The NationalResident Matching Program (NRMP), designed to keep the match fair and objective, pairs the wishes of the students with the needs of hospitals’ residency programs.
Prior to Match Day, students complete lengthy paperwork and on-site interviews with hospitals and then provide a ranked list of top choices. Hospitals submit a similar list indicating openings, preferred students, and specialty or generalist preferences. Each applicant is matched via computer algorithm to the hospital residency program that is highest on the applicant’s list and has offered the applicant a position. Johns Hopkins students often match to their first- or second-choice sites.