SPACE MISSION 2020: Celebrating Match Day in the Era of Social Distancing

March 20, 2020 by Jennifer Nachbur

The phrase “keep your distance” has taken on a whole new and deeply important meaning in the era of COVID-19 and even Match Day, the annual senior medical student rite of passage, was not “immune” to honoring this behavior. On March 20, 2020, members of the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont’s Class of 2020 went virtual to ensure social distancing while celebrating the news of where they will be spending the next three to seven years training as residents following graduation.

SPACE MISSION 2020 Virtual Match Day opening screen

The phrase “keep your distance” has taken on a whole new and deeply important meaning in the era of COVID-19 and even Match Day, the annual senior medical student rite of passage, was not “immune” to honoring this behavior. On March 20, 2020, members of the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont’s Class of 2020 – and medical schools across the country – went virtual to ensure social distancing while celebrating the news of where they will be spending the next three to seven years training as residents following graduation.

The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) reported that the 2020 Main Residency Match was its largest in history, with a record 40,084 U.S. and international applicants participating. (View the Larner College of Medicine 2020 Residency Appointment list.)

The UVM Larner College of Medicine “SPACE MISSION 2020” themed event was livestreamed on YouTube for friends, family, faculty, staff, and students to view as nearly 50 “space stations,” populated with nine or less people each, connected with “Mission Control” where Larner College of Medicine Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education Christa Zehle, M.D., and Interim Assistant Dean for Students Shaden Eldakar-Hein, M.D., M.S., hosted the event made possible via Zoom webinar technology. 

Instead of envelopes filled with letters on NRMP letterhead, Class of 2020 medical students received emails containing the news of the location of their residency. After remarks from Dean Page, Dean Zehle, and Class President Ava Baktyari, a fun skit featuring Deans Zehle and Eldakar-Hein, participating medical student “Space Stations” dialed in to announce their news virtually. (Link to our Match photo gallery.)

Read Class President Ava Baktyari's Remarks to the Class of 2020 here

Among the Class of 2020 medical students who matched are:

Eli Goldberg, a Shelburne, Vt. native who majored in archeology and ancient Greek as an undergrad, then worked doing health outreach for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and at Planned Parenthood before medical school. Eli says “I think it’s critical for doctors to be socially engaged – to be able to see the bigger social picture behind each individual patient, and to act as advocates where the system needs to change. Through my lens as a trans person, it’s important to me to use the training and opportunities that I have to lift up other trans folks. At the same time, my experiences working within the trans community have broadened my understanding of how other communities are marginalized in healthcare, pushed me to expand my sense of who I’m here to serve, and challenged me to become a more self-aware and effective ally. More and more, I find myself thinking about alternative ways of providing healthcare that are patient-centered, nonjudgmental, trauma-informed, and can really lift up everyone.” Eli matched into family medicine at UVM Medical Center.

Jasmine Robinson, from Westchester County, N.Y., matched into obstetrics/gynecology at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell Health Southside Hospital in Bayshore, N.Y. Having experienced homelessness as a child, she established the Here to Help Clinic for Burlington's homeless population through a Schweitzer Fellowship several years ago, which has grown and is supported by a Larner Student Interest Group. She says the project’s “biggest personal impact was my experiences with those among the homeless population and observing how the clinic impacted them. I gained the greatest fulfillment in seeing the community come together for a great cause . . . the success of this . . . inspires me to create more community programs addressing social determinants of health.”

Cole Shapiro of Charlotte, Vt., who couples matched with her boyfriend and Larner College of Medicine classmate Ben Lin to a pediatrics residency at Duke University School of Medicine (Ben matched in internal medicine at UNC Chapel Hill). She says “I discovered a strength in caregiving while helping a sick loved one, and this led me to study medicine. I've since focused my clinical interests in serving vulnerable populations, including identifying barriers to care. These experiences ultimately led me to apply into pediatrics - a population often lacking a voice in their medical care.” Cole has been working with a UVM pediatrician to develop a clinical curriculum for training in Burlington’s New American pediatric clinic.

A total of 120 students from the Larner College of Medicine’s Class of 2020 have matched into residencies at 72 different institutions across the U.S. and Canada, 48 in primary care specialties. Several students learned of their residency locations prior to Match Day through the Military Match and early specialty matches. Students in the Class of 2020 will earn their medical degrees at Commencement in May 2020 and will begin their residencies in June.  See the interactive map of residencies

Check out the Larner College of Medicine’s Match Day Instagram Story highlights >>


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