In the minutes leading up to Match Day, Alex Sims, a fourth-year medical student at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) was a mixed bag of emotions — nervous about possibly matching with a residency program far from her family, sad to leave the place she has called home for the past four years, and more importantly, excited for her future.
Held on March 15 this year, Match Day is what most medical students call the most pivotal moment of their medical education — the transition between medical school and residency.
“Match Day is a phenomenal day in the life of a medical student,” said Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D., vice president for health affairs and dean of SMHS, "It’s when our medical students learn where they will be doing their residency training. Our students match with some of the leading medical institutions in the country, including GW, in every specialty that you can imagine.”
As the noon deadline neared, when medical students across the country would receive the news on their residency match, GW SMHS students filled Ross Hall to celebrate this major milestone with their family, friends and faculty members. It was a family affair for Sims, whose entire family came out to show their support. “I have come to Match Day every year and I can’t believe that it’s finally my turn to do this,” said Sims. “It’s a surreal experience.”
Cheers, tears, hugs and laughter, followed as GW SMHS students simultaneously received and opened their envelopes from the National Residency Matching Program, a non-profit corporation established to provide a uniform date of appointment to positions in graduate medical education in the United States. Like thousands of fourth-year medical students across the country, GW SMHS students were part of the nearly 16,000 medical students nationwide who found out where they will spend the next several years of their professional career, fulfilling their residency requirements.
Fighting back tears, Sims opened her letter. “I feel so lucky to get my first choice,” said Sims, who matched in pediatrics-primary care at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “It’s amazing to have this moment surrounded by great people and a supportive family.”
Across the room, Siobhan Hartigan and Christal Achille, both fourth-year medical students at SMHS, couldn’t stop smiling after being matched. Best friends since middle school, Hartigan and Achille have always been there for each other. “It means a lot to me to have someone I know from home be by my side as I go through this process,” said Achille. The girls will be apart for the first time in years, as Achille, a Long Island, N.Y. native, is going back home to Stony Brook University Hospital where she matched in pediatrics. Hartigan matched in urology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
“It’s the most exciting day every year at the medical school,” said Scott Schroth, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for administration at SMHS. “Today is about the whole GW family — first through third-year medical students, staff, faculty, and alumni — coming together to celebrate.”
For Linda Ojo, M.P.H., a fourth-year medical student at SMHS and mother of two, matching in psychiatry at GW was a dream come true. “There is nothing like opening up that envelope and seeing your first choice in print,” she said. “My family and I have been on this long journey together and it’s amazing to see it finally come to fruition.”
Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Duke University Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland, Boston University Medical Center, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, are just some of the leading institutions that SMHS students matched with this year. Thirteen students will continue their training here at GW.