It’s hard to find the right words to describe how Amy Waldner, a fourth-year medical student at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), was feeling in the waning minutes leading up to Match Day — elated, anxious and maybe even a little sad. “You work so hard through four years of medical school, hoping that everything will work out the way you want it to on this day,” said Ms. Waldner, who would like to join her boyfriend, a first-year anesthesiology resident, at the University of Pennsylvania.
Held on March 21 this year, Match Day marks what most medical students call one of the most pivotal moments in their medical education — the transition between medical school and residency.
“Match Day is a crucial milestone in the life of any physician,” explains Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D.’81, RESD ’85, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, vice president for health affairs and dean of SMHS. “It’s when 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.”
Students surrounded by family, friends and faculty members gathered in Ross Hall to celebrate this milestone. As the clock struck noon, SMHS students joined with colleagues from schools across the country as they simultaneously received and opened their envelopes from the National Residency Matching Program, a nonprofit corporation established to provide a uniform date of appointment to positions in graduate medical education in the United States. SMHS students were among nearly 16,000 medical students nationwide who found out where they will spend the next three to five years of their professional career, fulfilling their residency requirements.
Ms. Waldner got her wish, matching in emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s a dream come true,” she said, fighting back tears with her letter in hand. “I prepared for the worst and hoped for the best.”
Across the room, fourth-year classmates and best friends Neha Agarwal and Maureen Banigan couldn’t contain their excitement. The women have been by one another’s side since their first day of medical school. “It’s a surreal experience,” said Ms. Agarwal. Being able to share this experience with each other, their classmates and families is what this day is really about for Ms. Agarwal and Ms. Banigan. “It’s extremely emotional to find out where everyone is going and to see all their hard work pay off,” said Ms. Banigan. The duo will continue their journey together, both matching in pediatrics at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C.
“It’s always the most exciting day of the year,” said Scott Schroth, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for administration at SMHS. “This year there were a lot of couples who matched in the same location, which is exciting.”
One of those couples is Kelly Bree and Eric Rupe, both fourth-year medical students at SMHS. Ms. Bree found out in January that she matched in urology at University of California, San Diego. “I have been a nervous wreck these past few months waiting to see where Eric would end up,” she said. Turns out Mr. Rupe will be heading west with Ms. Bree. “We couldn’t be more thrilled that I matched at UCSD,” said Mr. Rupe, who matched in radiology.
For Jeffrey Berger, M.D., associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at SMHS and the new interim associate dean for graduate medical education, Match Day is equally exciting. “We find out exactly who is coming to our program,” he said. “There will be some familiar faces that come from GW and some that come from outside institutions. Being chosen by top-notch students is validating of our efforts,” he added.
GW has anywhere from two or three to as many as 15 or 20 residents per program at a time, explained Dr. Berger. “In the anesthesiology program, we might receive more than 900 applications for eight positions,” he says. “This gives you a sense of the challenge program directors like me face. You have this crop of students who made it into medical school, who are all outstanding individuals with exceptional academic records, and you are in a sense trying to split hairs with a one in 100 ratio. It’s a tricky process.”
At 37 weeks pregnant, Karin Kuhn was a bundle of nerves. “It’s the feeling of not knowing what is going to happen,” she said. “Today really is the culmination of all my hard work.” Ms. Kuhn and her husband, Reed, have a lot to celebrate with the upcoming birth of their daughter and Ms. Kuhn’s match in radiology at Stanford University.
Following the festivities, third-year medical students uncorked the champagne and students, parents and friends celebrated at a luncheon sponsored for them by the GW Medical School Alumni Association's White Coat Initiative.
Harvard University, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Boston University Medical Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Northwestern University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center are just some of the leading institutions where SMHS students matched with this year. Eleven students will continue their training at GW, and five will continue their training at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C.
To view a complete list of this year’s SMHS Match Day schools, visit http://smhs.gwu.edu/matchday/