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Medical Students Share Emotional Reflections from Match Day 2016

Pamela Kim and her fiancé, Daniel Myers, climbed the stage hand-in-hand last Friday inside the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Allentown, their futures sealed in an envelope.

Both had completed their studies in SELECT – a medical school partnership between Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) and the University of South Florida (USF) Health Morsani College of Medicine. Now Kim and Myers – along with 34 of their SELECT classmates and scores of family and friends – awaited word on where they’d spend their residency.

Together, they opened their envelopes while the audience held its collective breath.

“I’m doing my residency in neurological surgery at Allegheny General Hospital,” Myers said with excitement.

Then Kim’s nervous tears turned into happy ones. “I’m doing my residency in internal medicine,” she said, “also at Allegheny Medical Center.”

“It’s a fantastic program in a great city where there are a lot of opportunities for both of us,” Myers said. “There’s no better feeling than knowing we will be together.”

High-stakes and high emotion

The couple’s story captured the drama of Match Day, an annual rite of passage for graduating medical students. The high-stakes event occurs simultaneously nationwide, with more than 35,000 applicants competing for a limited number of residency spots.

To participate, students complete applications and personal interviews, then rank their preferences and submit them to the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). Residency directors privately rank their choices and also submit them to NRMP. The results are aggregated and revealed at noon on Match Day.

Kim and Myers were one of more than 1,000 couples nationwide participating in Match Day, including two others in the SELECT class (those two other couples also matched to programs in the same city). In all, 42 seniors are in the second graduating class of SELECT, 36 of whom participated in last week’s local event at the Renaissance, and six of whom opened their envelopes in Tampa, Fla.

Here are a few other stories from Match Day 2016.

From coast to coast – Allentown Central Catholic High School alum Mary Kate Erdman said Match Day is “exciting, nerve wracking and surreal.” Her extended family leaped from their seats and cheered after she announced she matched to her top choice, an orthopedic surgery residency at the University of Southern California.

The specialty is a natural fit for the former athlete, who played basketball at Central Catholic and soccer at Lafayette College, where she earned her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering.

“I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was 6 years old,” says Erdman. “I decorated my bedroom with a poster of bones when I was a kid. It was an unusual choice and something my parents had to explain to family and friends.”

‘Konkrete Kid’ fulfills lifelong dream – Kelli Dunker, a Northampton High School graduate, matched in pediatrics at LVHN. It was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream that began when she first declared her intention to be a pediatrician during her pre-school graduation ceremony at St. Stephen’s in Bethlehem.

“It’s so nerve-wracking because you don’t have much control over the process once you submit your list,” Dunker said. “I got zero hours of sleep last night and finally got out of bed at 4 a.m. to exercise and get rid of the jitters.”

Parkland grad gets his wish – Michael Goodwin, a Parkland High School graduate, couldn’t have been more pleased to discover he’d been matched to his first choice in anesthesiology with The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. His match meant that he’d be near his girlfriend and extended family.

Back to the Sunshine State – Nicholas James of Jacksonville, Fla., hoped to get a residency assignment close to his hometown. James stepped up to the microphone accompanied by his wife and infant daughter. He tore into his envelope to find he had matched in orthopedic surgery at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville; the James family was going home.

Matches are in good company

This year’s SELECT graduating class matched with some of the top institutions in the country including LVHN, the University of Pennsylvania, New York Presbyterian Hospital Columbia & Cornell, University of California–Davis and the Mayo School in Jacksonville, Fla.

“Where you do your residency is most likely the place you will practice medicine,” said Michael La Rock, assistant dean of student affairs at the Lehigh Valley campus of SELECT. “This year, 31 percent of our students matched to a program in Pennsylvania, and six matched right here at LVHN. That’s great news, because we are attracting top students into our program, many of whom will stay and care for people in our communities.”

“SELECT’s curriculum focuses on values-based care, leadership, health care systems and emotional intelligence,” said Robert Barraco, chief academic officer and associate dean for educational affairs. “As an educator, it’s a real joy to know you are impacting 42 professionals who will care for and heal tens of thousands of people in their careers. It’s breathtaking when you think of the number of lives they will touch.”