Match Day culminates months of anticipation for med students

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Match Day culminates months of anticipation for med students

Students in the National Residency Matching Program learn where they will continue their physician training
McKenna Princing

The phrase ‘finding a match’ typically evokes the complicated world of dating. For graduating medical students across the country, matching means building a career and finding an academic home in a residency training program.
This pairing – officially ‘The Match’ by its orchestrator, the National Residency Matching Program – began months ago when students submitted applications, attended interviews and ranked their desired destinations. Match programs are located everywhere from rural clinics to bustling urban hospitals. The weighty subtext: Once finalized, match contracts are binding.

Match Day arrived at 9 a.m. today for 219 students graduating from the University of Washington School of Medicine. With it came the knowledge of where they’ll spend the next three to seven years.

Clare McLean
Sharlay Butler is interviewed for a podcast during Match Day.
Sharlay Butler is interviewed for a podcast during Match Day.

 A few days ago, five of these students shared some thoughts about their pasts and futures. 

Sharlay Butler: Studying obstetrics and gynecology. Her match was Northwestern University.

Why medicine? “I actually thought I’d be a lawyer. I grew up on the Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) reservation with my mom, brother, and sister. My mom got really sick and we lost everything. We spent the year living in a camper, a van, a highway motel. I got really angry: My mom just got sick, she didn’t do anything wrong. But then I got into the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program here at UW, and through that I thought, ‘Maybe I could be a doctor.’”

Why OB-Gyn? “For me, it’s the perfect combination of medicine, procedures and surgery. I really like being in the OR. I also really like what fertility and motherhood means to a woman, her role and identity. It was after those moments in clinic I felt the happiest.”

Clare McLean
Caleb Barnhill celebrates with his girlfriend after learning of his match.
Caleb Barnhill celebrates with his girlfriend after learning of his match.

Caleb Barnhill: Studying general surgery. His match was Virginia Mason.

Why medicine? “I’ve always had a fascination with medicine and how the human body worked. As a kid, I did surgery on my stuffed animals. I really had no interest in pursuing anything other than medical school. Surgery is the best of both worlds: There’s a lot of medicine where you manage patients and understand physiology, but you also get to fix the problem.”
You spent your first year of medical school in Spokane. "I’m from a tiny town, and I did my undergrad in Spokane and had a lot of friends there. I liked the smaller-town feel. It made more sense for me to start medical school with some of my friends around and have a more intimate atmosphere for learning. The medical community in Spokane is incredibly supportive of medical students, and committed to growing medical education in the area. I’m going back there for my last rotation, in emergency medicine.”

Clare McLean
Nasim Babazadeh and Mike Keating, in the moment before opening their envelopes.
Nasim Babazadeh and Mike Keating, in the moment before opening their envelopes.

Nasim Babazadeh and Mike Keating: Both will study general surgery. Their couples match was Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Do you have any near-future career goals?  
Nasim: "I’m excited to start delving into surgery, the clinical side of it, taking on more responsibility and being a bigger part of patient care." 
Mike: "I’m not thinking past residency right now. But I’m excited to get my hands dirty, start treating patients, being the doctor for my patients."
And you’re both going into surgery. 
Nasim: “It’s unusual, that we’re both couples matching in the same specialty. We were worried about it at first; neither of us wanted to change our specialty.” 
Mike: “And neither wanted the other to change their specialty.” 
Nasim: “It’s reassuring that it’s doable when you want to go into the same field.”
Mike: “It’s been a great experience. We got to do all our traveling together.”

Clare McLean
Neli Mottey joyfully displays her Match Day assignment.
Neli Motley joyfully displays her Match Day assignment.

Neli Mottey: She is studying internal medicine. Her match was the University of Michigan.

Why medicine? “I grew up in Gabon, a small country in central Africa, where healthcare was not a big part of peoples’ lives; I thought the last thing I’d want to be was a doctor. Yet, when I moved to the United States at 18, I had a positive experience at a free clinic that made me think pursuing medicine would be a great way to combine my passion for social justice with my love for science.”

What do you see as one of the more pressing issues in your field today? “Even now that more people have insurance, there’s still a problem with access to care, especially in terms of people’s understanding of health in general, like the need for preventative healthcare, adherence to treatment plans, and the relationship between patient and physician. Especially for underserved populations, people may not have resources to get to a hospital to get care, or be able to take time off work to take a family member to a hospital.”

Clare McLean
Tiana Nizamic is happy that she'll join her fiance at the University of Colorado.
Tiana Nizamic is happy that she'll join her fiance at the University of Colorado.

Tiana Nizamic: She will study internal medicine. Her match was the University of Colorado School of Medicine. 

What is a favorite memory from medical school?  “One of the emergency medicine rotations that I did. I felt like I was really able to get a good history from my patients, understand their disease process and the things I was looking out for that could possibly be wrong with them. I had a better handle on things than I ever did before; I was able to walk around the ER with my shoulders feeling a little lighter.”
Near-future career goals? "I want to stay at an academic medical center because I enjoy teaching. I taught a physics course for SMDEP and taught hand anatomy to K-12 teachers, who brought it back to their students to help with a project on creating a prosthetic arm. You had to be in a different mindset, teaching someone how to teach; everything you teach them, you’re thinking about how they’re going to translate it to their classroom.” 

The 2015 match was the largest in history: more than 41,000 applicants, more than 30,000 positions, and more than 4 thousand programs. See the NRMP news release.

“One of our missions is to improve the health of the public by training students who choose primary care. This year we are thrilled to report that 60% of our students matched into primary care residencies,” said Dr. Anne Eacker, associate dean of student affairs in UW's School of Medicine.

The UW celebrated Match Day in three time zones.  The UW is noted for its WWAMI program, in which the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho join to provide medical education and clinical training at sites throughout the region. The Anchorage, Boise and Spokane WWAMI sites hosted Match Day celebrations for graduating medical students. The number of UW graduating medical students participating in the 2015 Match is 216.  Three other students already received their match placements through the military back in December.

[Editor's note: Check out our accompanying coverage on Tagboard - Hashtag #HuskyMatch if you would like to contribute.]