Student residency assignments bring flood of emotion

Justin Costley

After five years of medical school, University student Rachel Zent found out yesterday what direction her future in medicine would take: the University of Colorado in Denver.
She will spend the next seven years in Denver learning the ins and outs of her specialty, general surgery.
Zent, along with more than 200 other University medical students, received envelopes containing their future residency assignments Thursday at the Gateway alumni center.
Senior medical students expressed excitement, relief and disappointment as they discovered their final destinations after an 18-month process.
“It’s a huge day; this is what we’ve been waiting for all our lives, and it’s finally here,” Zent said.
Residency is the next step in the long process to becoming a full-fledged doctor.
The road to obtaining a residence is complicated. Students must participate in a nationwide program that matches a student’s favored institutions with a list of students the institutions will accept.
The National Resident Matching Program makes students research, apply to and interview for specialties and residency programs.
The process is competitive — some universities might receive as many as 500 applications. Of those, only 40 or 50 get an interview and only five obtain an eventual residency.
After selecting a specialty like family practice, pediatrics, surgery or internal medicine, students begin a process of researching possible residency programs.
Students then apply to their favored programs via the Internet and must wait and hope they receive interviews from select universities or institutions.
After interviewing, students prioritize schools and institutions in order of the ones they would most like to attend. Residency programs, at the same time, rank the students by the ones they would most like to have.
Comparing the rankings of both, a computer in Washington attempts to match student with residency program.
With the prospect of having to go to a program ranked low on their list, there was widespread relief and joy when students opened up their envelopes to see they had matched well.
After matching with his first choice and receiving an internal medicine residency at Hennepin County Medical Center, senior class president David Hilden said relief was one of many emotions he felt.
“I was very relieved that the process was over,” Hilden said. “An hour ago, I didn’t know where I was going to be living. Now I can settle into the next phase of my career.”
More than 82 percent of University medical students received a residency match with one of their top three choices, and more than 60 percent matched with their top choice.
Family practice and internal medicine were the most popular specialties, and 57 percent of University students chose to stay in Minnesota for their residencies.
Locally, the University program, along with programs at Hennepin County Medical Center and Mayo Graduate School of Medicine were the most popular. Many other states are represented, however, including California and Texas.
Helene Horwitz, associate dean for student affairs, emphasized the day’s importance.
“I think for most students, this is a more significant day for them than even graduation,” she said. “It’s their future.”

Justin Costley covers the Medical School and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3224.