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Matched Up

“I feel excited, nervous, and anxious” said Dalya Elhady, a fourth-year medical student at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), in the minutes leading up to Match Day. Surrounded by her four children and husband, Elhady credits their unwavering love and support for her successes as a medical student. “They have been supporting me through the last four years, always cheering me on when things got tough and, most importantly, giving me time to study,” she said, hoping to match in anesthesiology at her top choice, UF Health Shands Hospital at the University of Florida-Gainesville.

Match Day, held on March 20 this year, marks one of the most important and exciting moments in student’s medical education — the transition between medical school and residency.

“Today is the beginning of the next phase of their career,” explained Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D. ’81, RESD ’85, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, vice president for health affairs, and Dean of SMHS. “Our students come from all over the country, and they matched at schools all over the country, going into every specialty you can imagine from anesthesiology to primary care.”

Students gathered in Ross Hall, surrounded by family, friends, and faculty, to celebrate the milestone. At 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 careers, fulfilling their residency requirements.

“I’m amazed,” said Elhady, fighting back tears as she found out she matched with her top choice. “I’m relieved for me and my family, and I’m ready to take this next journey with them.”

For Allison Hoff, a fourth-year medical student at SMHS and the school’s first Adopt-A-Doc scholar, the day was about thanking the man who supported her throughout her medical education. “I want to thank Dr. Russell Libby for having my back,” she said. “It says a lot about someone who chooses to give back in this way, and it’s been amazing to know there was someone supporting me through the last four years.” 

Libby, M.D. ’79, helped establish the Adopt-a-Doc program in 2011. It provides SMHS alumni the opportunity to support a current GW medical student by pledging scholarship support for each of their four years of medical school. Hoff matched at the University Maryland Medical Center in psychiatry.

Across the room, engaged couple Ben Alencherry and Erin Matthys, both fourth-year medical students at SMHS, eagerly waited to find out if they would be planning their upcoming wedding via long distance. “Match day is the culmination of the past four years and all our hard work, and hopefully we end up together where we want to be,” said Matthys.

“Today is essentially the first day of the rest of their lives,” said Scott Schroth, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for administration at SMHS. “It’s what these students have been waiting for. Residency is the most important part of their training.”

“We are so relieved,” said Matthys, waving her letter in the air. The couple will continue their education together at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland.  Matthys matched in diagnostic radiology and Alencherry in internal medicine. They plan to wed in September.

Following the festivities, students, parents, and friends celebrated at a luncheon sponsored by the GW Medical School Alumni Association. The welcome break offered everyone involved the chance to let the magnitude of the event sink in.

“These kids are all self-made. They represent the best of GW, the best of the country, the best of what GW does,” said Peter B. Kovler, member of the GW Board of Trustees and chairman of the board of the Blum-Kovler Foundation, whose son Mark matched at John Hopkins in general surgery. “I wish every member of the Board of Trustees could see this and experience this moment.”

Duke University, Ohio State University Medical Center, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and University of Virginia are some of the institutions where SMHS students matched with this year. Six students will continue their training at GW, and two 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/