Cheers and Tears Mark the Miller School’s 2015 Match Day Celebration

“I’m going to Atlanta!!!”

It all poured out in a single high-pitched shriek of joy when fourth-year student Kristy Whyte opened the sealed white envelope to learn where she had been matched for her residency in emergency medicine.

Whyte, wearing a bright yellow dress, and with her mother, Sheila Gibson, by her side, was the first Miller School of Medicine graduate-to-be to walk across the dais and be handed her future by Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., who presided over the 2015 Match Day ceremonies on March 20. As mother and daughter both wept tears of joy, Whyte was embraced by one of her mentors, Edgar Pierre, M.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology, in a congratulatory hug.

Emory “was my first choice,” Whyte said. “I’m so happy and proud.”

It was a scene, and sentiment, replayed in a variety of ways over the next three hours as 191 future physicians learned where they would spend the next three to seven years — and possibly their entire medical career. The event, held under a tent on the Schoninger Research Quadrangle, mirrored ceremonies occurring simultaneously at medical schools across the U.S. By common agreement, the selection results are kept secret until noon Eastern Daylight Time, when students at each school participating in the National Resident Matching Program begin stepping forward to learn their fate as the envelopes are drawn in random order.

“Please know that the Miller School of Medicine will be your family forever,” Goldschmidt, Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and CEO of UHealth, told the students before the celebration began, “and we will be here for you. You are matching with some of the most prestigious residency programs and institutions in the country. Here at the Miller School of Medicine you have learned from the best — dedicated educators, a progressive curriculum, research that counts, the latest therapies and cures. Wherever your career takes you, I know you will continue to make us proud.

“This is an event that you deserve. It brings tears to my eyes when I think about the extraordinary work that you have done with us as students, and which we cherish. Make no mistake — what you have brought to the Miller School of Medicine, each and every one of you, is entirely unique. As your dean, I want to thank you for that.”

“We had a great class,” said Rachel Kennedy, whose 3-1/2-year-old daughter, Elliana, sat by her feet watching all the activity with quiet amazement, “and it looks like we placed very well as a group.” Kennedy got her first choice — an internal medicine residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital. If she misses her Kentucky home, she won’t for long. Her mother, Beth, a physician’s assistant who joined Rachel and Elliana on the dais, had already announced she was moving to Miami, so Kentucky’s loss was Florida’s gain.

Elise Alves, who also matched at Jackson, although in pediatrics, took a lot more firepower up on stage than that. A believer in the power of numbers, she had her husband, her father, her best friend and a fellow student with her for luck, and that was hardly the largest group to circle around a sealed envelope last Friday. Her husband, Peter Greber, is a nurse at Baptist Hospital of Miami.

“Staying in Miami was my first and only choice,” she said.

Ryan Dauer and his wife, Laura, had a similar ambition. Ryan, son of UM Trustee and Miller School alumnus Edward Dauer, M.D. ’75, got an extra boost from his dad’s presence in the audience.

“I’m going to be a triple Cane!” shouted Ryan, who had also earned his undergraduate degree at UM, when he learned he had matched with an internal medicine residency at Jackson. He will be joining his wife, who is already at Jackson as a second-year pediatrics resident.

Others were looking for a change of scenery — and school colors. Karenia Soto let out a whoop of joy when she saw that she was headed to Duke for a general surgery residency. Her fiancé, Alejandro Landa, a first-year OB-GYN resident, is already at Duke. He had come prepared, whipping a Blue Devils cap out of his pocket and placing it on her head as soon as she read the good news. The two Cuban immigrants are getting married next year, she said, so her future was looking bright, with or without the Florida sunshine.

Michael Raher, whose father had come down from Massachusetts — “My mom was too nervous to come, so she’s watching online,” he said — received the good news that he was headed to Connecticut for an anesthesiology residency at Yale.

“I’m so glad to be going back to New England,” he said. “My family is happy that I’m coming home, too. But from a career perspective, it’s so exciting to finally know where you’re going.”

Jeanna Harvey Barnes is also headed for New England — a radiology residency at Brown in Rhode Island — but the Florida native is taking a slower path, with a preliminary year in general medicine at the Miller School’s JFK Medical Center regional campus in Palm Beach County. With her son, James, 4-1/2 months, in her arms and her husband, Zach, by her side, she was the picture of contentment. When she was asked about learning to shovel snow, her husband, also a Florida native, nobly responded with a wry smile: “I’m afraid that will be me.”

Miami native Sarah Marie Selem brought her mother, a pediatrician, with her. It was not to bring her luck, but to express her gratitude.

“She was my inspiration to become a pediatrician,” said Selem, with tears in her eyes. “She the most caring and compassionate person I know, and I hope I can be half the woman she is.”

Selem, who matched with a pediatrics residency at Miami Children’s Hospital, can hardly wait to begin.

“I’m so excited to finally be able to practice what I’ve been studying,” she said.

There were numerous occasions during the festivities when Goldschmidt pulled two envelopes from the basket that were stapled together. That indicated a student couple who hoped to end up in the same city, if not necessarily at the same institution.

When it came time for Gregory Milligan and Chellse Lynn Gazda to open their envelopes, there was a huge expression of relief, followed by tears. Both are native Floridians, but they had matched with their first choice — internal medicine residencies at Tulane in New Orleans.

“The same program at the same institution — it’s redefining togetherness,” joked the Dean.

There were some interesting statistical trends among the matched students:

• 31 percent of students were matched at Jackson Memorial Hospital or a UM residency (up from 25 percent last year and 23 percent in 2013).

• Approximately 40 percent are remaining in the State of Florida (up from 34 percent last year).

• Specialties with increased numbers this year compared to last year are ophthalmology (9 percent, with a record 17 in this year’s class); emergency medicine (7 percent, with 14 in the class); pediatric medicine (2 percent) and general surgery (10 percent).

• Primary care fields (inclusive of OB/GYN) were chosen by approximately 41 percent (up from 32 percent last year).

This year will also see the first graduating class of students from the Miller School’s M.D./M.P.H. program. Interestingly, 48 percent of M.D./M.P.H. students chose primary care fields, compared with 38 percent in the M.D. track.

“I think our first cohort from the M.D./M.P.H. track is indeed special,” said Alex Mechaber, M.D., Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education. “The inaugural program attracted unique individuals with talents and qualities seen in pioneers and trailblazers. We hope that subsequent cohorts follow suit.

“Another point to note is that nearly 50 percent from the M.D./M.P.H. track are entering primary care fields, compared with the mid-30s traditionally for the M.D. track. While this wasn’t an explicit goal of the program, we had hoped that public-health-minded students would consider primary care specialties as a home to cultivate their public health aspirations.”

In another Miller School tradition, as each student’s match was announced, a star was affixed to the residency’s location on a large map of the United States. Typically, South Florida acquires the most stickers because of the number of students matching at Jackson Memorial Hospital and other locations; the rest run up along the East Coast and cluster major population centers across the country. Two, however, stood out because of the sheer distance from Miami; both of those students are headed for Hawaii. Michael Krishna Rao, an M.D./M.P.H. student, was matched with a program in general surgery at the University of Hawaii, and Second Lieutenant Alexander

Kaplan, a U.S. Army officer, with a psychiatry residency at Tripler Army Medical Center.

“When you’re in the Army, you go where they send you,” Kaplan said. Then he broke into a big smile. “But this is pretty nice.”

In one of the day’s random coincidences, Tyler Brown, the very last student to be called, is, like Kristy Whyte, the very first, headed for a residency in emergency medicine. Brown, who grew up in Iowa, is bound for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

“It was a long wait,” he said, “but it was worth it. This was my top pick.”

Brown received an additional Match Day reward for his patience. By tradition, as the students leave the dais, each one puts $5 into a basket, and the student called last wins the prize pot. The total collected this year approached $1,000, but it was not destined to last long. The other tradition is that the winner buys a congratulatory round for all the others after the ceremony is over, in addition to donating some of the funds to charity.

To see a complete Match Day photo gallery, click here.

To see a video of the Match Day events, click here.

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