On Friday, March 19 at noon EDT, members of the Class of 2021 at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont – along with senior medical students across the country – learned where they will be practicing as residents after graduation on Match Day. (Link to the UVM Larner College of Medicine Class of 2021 Residency Match list.)
Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the physical, emotional, and financial health of citizens worldwide, and lifted the critical role of tireless healthcare providers to forefront. In addition to being faced with joining the medical professional ranks during a pandemic, soon-to-be-doctors have had to navigate an upended process of applying for residencies, adding more stress to an already stressful situation.
Residency applicant interviews moved to a virtual format. Without the need for travel, applicants were able to accept more interview invitations, which created a new layer of competitiveness to the process. In addition, while fourth year medical students often complete special clinical training experiences that may increase their competitiveness as residency candidates in their selected fields, those opportunities disappeared during the pandemic.
In early March, residency applicants submitted their ranked lists of preferences for residency locations with which they interviewed, and residency programs submitted ranked lists of preferences for candidates whom they interviewed. A computer algorithm that matches applicants to programs based on these ranked lists and run by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) produces each student’s final match result, which arrived via email at exactly noon EDT.
In 2020, UVM was one of a few medical schools across the country that was able to quickly pivot to holding a live, virtual Match Day event. Now more than 12 months into holding classes, conferences and events on Zoom, the 2021 celebration was more familiar and comfortable for the more than 90 medical students who reported in from more than 45 remote group locations.
The theme was tropical vacation, and members of the Class of 2021, as well as some deans, dressed the part. The event opened with a welcome from Larner Dean Rick Page, M.D., who acknowledged the uniqueness of completing a fourth year of medical school during a pandemic.
"You have all been real trailblazers," he said. "The first and, we hope, only class to have done your residency interviewing virtually, due to the pandemic. It has been a year of trailblazing throughout society, and across the profession of medicine. We know there have been countless challenges and low points throughout the year, but today is a time to recognize a true high point."
Decked out in a colorful shirt, Class President Cameron Burke addressed his classmates and thanked the faculty and staff who have helped them in their training to become physicians. "We have learned countless lessons about medicine from anatomy to pathophysiology and pharmacology, but even more about kindness and compassion, leadership and teamwork, resilience and strength," he said.
The traditional Office of Medical Student Education Match Day skit followed and did not disappoint. Senior Associate Dean Christa Zehle, M.D., joined in from the "Isle of Pediatrica." She connected with Interim Associate Dean for Students Lee Rosen, Ph.D., who was communing with mindful penguins on Antartica in the company of his volleyball friend, "Wilson," and medical students on the "Isle of Anesthesia," "Isle of Dermatologia," and "Archipelago of Emergencies."
Dean Rosen then confirmed the sending of the Match results via "Polar Post" -- a line of penguins diving into the sea -- and the Match announcements commenced. Among the Class of 2021 medical students participating and announcing their Match results were:
- Christina “Nina” Dawson, who learned of her match to the University of North Carolina for pediatrics, a specialty she enjoys due to its focus on working with children and their families and engaging with the community. As a member of the Larner College of Medicine Social Justice Coalition and Global Health Program, Dawson has been able “to create opportunity, to advocate, and to elevate the voices of the diverse communities from which I come and in which I will live and work in the future.” During the pandemic, she’s seen proof of the resilience of the healthcare community and looks forward to applying new ways to create and maintain connections while providing compassionate care to patients.
- Matt Tsai, who matched to an internal medicine residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and is the co-founder of the Green Mountain Medicine podcast for the Vermont chapter of the American College of Physicians (ACP). He enjoys the breadth of areas covered in the field of internal medicine – making connections between such areas as organ systems, pharmacology, and physiology – and aspires to be a clinical teacher like his UVM faculty role models. His experiences as a Vermont ACP member and his mentors in that work have “taught me how to find and to build community in medicine (even during a pandemic!),” says Tsai, who is excited to celebrate being one step closer to realizing his dream of becoming a doctor.
- Alexander Karabachev and Hanaa Shihadeh, who are classmates and a couple that learned they’ll be doing their residencies in otolaryngology (head and neck surgery) at University of Cincinnati Medical Center and plastic and reconstructive surgery at Albany Medical Center, respectively. The son of an otolaryngologist who completed residency training at UVM, Karabachev spent time in his late father’s practice and the operating room when he was growing up. “Before I started medical school, he passed from a head and neck cancer,” Karabachev explains. “After this, I knew I wanted to help patients with the same disease,” he says, adding that research meetings, otolaryngology conferences and learning in the OR from his mentors have been the highlight of his medical education. Shihadeh loves the diversity of plastic and reconstructive surgery, which can involve surgery anywhere on the body – head to toe – and offers the opportunity to tailor the approach for the patient. At UVM, she says “I witnessed the value of patience, kindness, and curiosity and those are things I will forever carry with me in my career.” The two future physicians – who are engaged – are committed to making their relationship work, despite completing their residencies in different states.
Several UVM Larner College of Medicine students, including those in the military, learned of their residency match locations through early matches outside of the NRMP. Members of the Class of 2021 will receive their medical degrees on May 23, 2021.
Link to the UVM Larner College of Medicine Match Day event video.
Visit the 2021 Match Day photo gallery.
View the interactive Match Map.