A Virtually Perfect Match
In some ways the moment was like many others before, fourth-year medical students across the country waiting anxiously for the appointed time when news of the next steps in their medical training would be released by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). However, the Class of 2020 will forever be distinguished as the group that entered the health workforce in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year when the clock struck noon on March 20, 2020, instead of gathering in Ross Hall with a throng of friends, family, and mentors, George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) fourth-years were gathered around computer monitors for a virtual Match Day held through web conferencing platform WebEx. Most of the students were surrounded by only a handful of their closest family members, waiting to learn where they would pursue their residency training.
“I know this isn’t exactly how you planned to celebrate your match day,” Barbara L. Bass, MD, RESD ’86, vice president for health affairs at GW, dean of SMHS, and CEO of The GW Medical Faculty Associates, told students in a video message that was posted prior to the event. “But you will have perhaps the most memorable Match Day in history.”
During the school’s first-ever virtual match event, and her first Match Day as SMHS dean, Bass added, “This is an exciting time, and I hope you are all thrilled with your results. You’ve signed up for an incredibly noble pathway. What a privilege and joy it is to do what you will be doing for the rest of your life.”
Nearly 100 students, faculty, and staff participated in the online event. From screens near and far participants listened to remarks from SMHS leadership including Rhonda Goldberg, MA, associate dean for student affairs; and Katherine Chretien, MD, associate dean for student affairs, before counting down the final seconds down together.
“I logged into the virtual match from my sister’s house in Capitol Hill, I celebrated with her, her husband, and my wife while video-chatting with my parents and in-laws,” said Ethan (Eitan) Parnass, who matched in anesthesiology at his first choice, Rush University in his hometown of Chicago. “Given the situation with COVID-19, I believe this was the best way to celebrate Match Day. I was happy to be with my family most of all and was still have some semblance of a ceremony with my peers and school.”
“Your class had an amazing match, as I look over the institutions you will be going to,” said Richard Simons, MD, senior associate dean for MD programs and professor of medicine at SMHS, moments before the countdown. “We are very proud of you; know that your education will carry you to new heights as you start this important next phase in your professional careers.”
Nationwide, a record-high 40,084 applicants competed for 37,256 residency positions, the most ever according to the NRMP. This year’s national match rate for U.S. MD program seniors was 93.7%, down 0.2% from last year. SMHS MD students consistently have matched well above the national average, and this year was no exception. The Class of 2020 boasted a 98% match rate, and paired with many of the most prestigious programs around the country. New York topped the list of destinations, with 37 students heading to programs in the Empire State. Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in Manhattan, tied with GW at 10 for the largest number of students heading to one institution. Leading specialties among the class included internal medicine, pediatrics, anesthesiology, family medicine, and orthopaedic surgery.
In addition to the 10 SMHS students, GW will welcome 150 new members to the clinical community this summer. The university’s 41 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education accredited programs filled all 108 internship slots and 52 the 54 fellowships.
International medical graduates participating in training through the SMHS Office of International Medicine Programs (IMP) earned a residency match rate of 90.9%, around 3 percent below the match rate for U.S. MD program seniors (93.7%). Overall, 17 international students matched in residency programs or fellowships, in specialties such as internal medicine, pediatrics, nephrology, and surgery.
According to the NRMP, non-U.S. citizen international medical graduate participation in the match increased, ending three years of declining numbers. In 2020, nearly 7,000 international students entered the match, and more than 4,000 (61.1%) matched in first-year positions, the highest match rate for international students since 1990.
“Originally, I planned to watch and open my email alone,” said Sharjeel Chaudhry, refering to the virtual match. He had returned to his childhood home in Maryland to be with his parents, siblings, and sister-in-law. “After I opened the WebEx link and heard all of the inspiring speeches from the deans, I took my laptop downstairs and we all did the count down together. We did a short prayer and I opened the email.”
Chaudhry matched in vascular surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. The Harvard University affiliate typically takes just one integrated vascular surgery resident annually. “I am very grateful to have matched there,” said Chaudhry, who as a second-year student was one of 10 recipients of the prestigious Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation Fellowship. “I decided on Beth Israel because they are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. The program also offers a terrific research environment, which I am looking forward to pursuing.”
“Johns Hopkins was my No. 1 choice,” said Steven Langerman, who matched in internal medicine. “It offers excellence in clinical training, research, and public health. On top of that, it is a legendary institution that has played a pivotal role in the history of medicine. I couldn’t be more excited!
“With the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added, “it’s a challenging time to be starting a career as a frontline health care provider. But it’s also a reminder of the reasons we all chose to join this profession. Society needs physicians now more than ever, and I’m honored to be joining their ranks.”