Med students get matched for residency

Ninety-four percent of students were matched to their preferred program.

Senior medical students Sean Engel and Missy Wayne got engaged last Tuesday, but before “happily ever after,” one obstacle remained – where would they complete their residencies?

McNamara Alumni Center played host to medical school matchmaking Thursday, as more than 200 University Medical School seniors joined more than 22,000 worldwide in opening letters telling them where they’d spend three to seven years after graduation.

“It’s a pretty big day for the Medical School,” Engel said. “Almost as big as graduation, at least for the students.”

The national event, called Match Day, is the culmination of a residency-matching process in which students list their top choices for training, and the institutions list their choices for possible residents.

After the lists are compared, students are sorted and matched with the institutions. This year, more than 94 percent of applicants were matched to programs of their choice nationally, the highest rate in more than 30 years.

Engel was accepted to the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in Virginia for internal medicine. And Wayne won’t be far away – she’s going to the Eastern Virginia Medical School to work in pediatrics.

“I was very happy and teary- eyed when I opened up my letter and saw that I could go with him,” Wayne said.

Match Day marks a turning point for medical students, said Kathleen Watson, associate dean for students and student learning at the Medical School.

Match Day is the “culmination of who they wanted to become, and now they realize that they will be able to do what they wanted,” she said.

“These guys are the absolute cream of the crop in the state,” Watson added.

Medical School Dean Deborah Powell addressed students prior to letter distribution. She encouraged them to consider coming back to the state following residency training.

“You’ve succeeded in medical school, you’ll succeed in your residencies, and we want you ultimately to come back home to us,” she said.

Of the 209 graduating students, 202 were matched. Of those, 97 will complete in-state residencies, with 47 sticking around for programs sponsored by the University Medical School.

Senior medical student Nathaniel Scott received his letter from the Hennepin County Medical Center.

“It’s what we’ve been working toward for four years now,” he said. “All the work that we’ve done, a lot of it is represented by this day.”

Scott, who will practice internal medicine and emergency medicine, said watching his classmates scatter throughout the country will be bittersweet.

“I’m sure we’ll stay in touch and we’ll always have those shared experiences,” he said. “It’s kind of tough to think about not being around those people.”

The National Resident Matching Program conducts the matching. This year, 28,737 residency applications were completed, all vying for one of 22,240 residency positions worldwide. There were 15,000 applicants in the U.S. alone.

Medical student Chris Vu got his assignment Thursday – for Orlando Regional Medical Center.

For Vu, a Minnesota native going into emergency medicine, warm weather, diverse patient demographics and happy hospital residents made the difference, he said.

“All the residents that I met seemed very excited and very happy,” he said.

Not all locations are the same, Vu said, and of the 13 places on his list, Orlando was his top choice.

“I wanted to go somewhere where it seemed people were getting what they wanted out of it,” he said.

Chris Engel, Sean’s father, said sharing Match Day with Sean and his fiancée made it a special event.

“We’re really happy for them and excited that they have this day together and can share this time,” he said.

With graduation and the beginning of residency on the horizon, along with her new engagement, Wayne said Match Day was a good send-off to students.

“It’s just like Christmas,” she said. “You wait forever, and now it’s gone in a flash.”