Emotion and Pride Mark the Miller School’s 2014 Match Day

There were shouts of triumph, gasps of relief, and tears of joy as fourth-year Miller School students learned where the next chapter in their education would take them. They were called one by one to the dais and opened the sealed envelope containing the name of the residency program with which they had been matched.

The Miller School Match Day celebration, held March 21 under a white tent on the Schoninger Research Quadrangle, mirrored ceremonies occurring simultaneously at medical schools across the U.S. Match Day is when graduating students participating in the National Resident Matching Program learn where they will spend the next three to seven years — and possibly their entire medical career. By common agreement, the selection results are kept secret until noon Eastern Daylight Time, when students at each school begin stepping forward to learn their fate as the envelopes are drawn in random order.

Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School and CEO of UHealth, acted as master of ceremonies for the event. “This is the best class in school history,” he told the cheering audience of students, families, friends, faculty and other well-wishers under the tent. “Ninety-nine percent will start a job on July 1 because they are so brilliant,” he added, alluding to the 157 out of 159 students who were matched — the Miller School’s highest match rate ever, beating out this year’s national average for U.S. seniors of 94.4 percent.

“Our radiology students don’t even have to open the envelope; they can see right through it,” Goldschmidt joked, drawing laughs from the nervous crowd.

For all of the students, it was the culmination of years of hard work academically, months of interviews and applications for residency programs, and a healthy dose of waiting.

None, perhaps, had waited as long as Kimberly Feinberg. Following a 10-year business career and a stint in the Peace Corps, she embarked on a second career in medicine. That included catching up on basic science courses she had never taken, which stretched the normal four years required to earn an M.D. degree to seven. Along the way, she also had become a mother, and her 16-month-old daughter, Ellie, was with her. Standing before her classmates, at 38, she opened her envelope and excitedly announced that she had been matched with an anesthesiology residency at Miami’s Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Feinberg is married to a clinical psychologist practicing in Miami, and a local residency was her only practical option. “I’m thrilled to have been matched with my first choice,” she said, “and anesthesiology is the right specialty for me. I’m detail-oriented, I love the OR, and I love caring for patients both during and after surgery.”

Also standing out in the crowd were cousins Paul and Phillip Tenzel, who opened their envelopes together wearing matching blue sport coats and red bowties. Paul matched with a general surgery residency at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C., while Phillip will head for an ophthalmology residency at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary following a preliminary year of general medicine at the Miller School’s Palm Beach Regional Campus. Both were first choices.

Tradition rules the Tenzel family, and the pair’s fathers, Jack Tenzel, M.D. ’83, and David Tenzel, M.D. ’85, and an uncle, Howard Loff, M.D. ’90, are all ophthalmologists and Miller School alumni. Their grandfather, Richard Tenzel, M.D., taught ophthalmology and practiced at Bascom Palmer from 1960-91. He passed away while the cousins were in medical school, and the blue sport coats, which they wore to Match Day in his honor, had been his.

“This is a landmark day in a medical student’s career,” said Alex J. Mechaber, M.D., Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education. “The four most significant days for a medical student are the day you arrive at medical school, the day you are pinned, the day you match and the day you graduate.”

It was also a landmark day for the Miller School. Mechaber reported that:

• 25.3 percent of the class had matched at Jackson Memorial Hospital — the highest percentage in recent years.

• Four specialties had larger matching percentages than in 2012: anesthesiology (11 percent of the class), pediatrics (10 percent), psychiatry (6 percent) and radiology (7 percent).

• Primary care fields, inclusive of obstetrics-gynecology, held strong, at 38 percent.

Students who matched at Jackson were particularly pleased. Stephen Burks, who matched for a residency in neurological surgery, was one. “The resident group at Jackson has some of the happiest and best physicians to work with,” he said. “I’ve also worked at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis all through medical school, and the scientists there are top-notch. I’m very happy to be staying in Miami.”

Michelle Fletcher, who matched at Jackson in obstetrics-gynecology, concurred. “Match Day was a mix of emotions and filled with excitement, but I felt confident about where I would end up,” she said. “I have always been involved in women’s health. I love medicine and continuity of care and having long-term relationships with people. My OB-GYN rotation at Jackson was the best of all possible worlds.”

The opportunity to begin a career of service was an emotional high point for many students. Corey Martin, who matched for a pediatrics residency at the University of Alabama Medical Center, has felt a calling to patient care. “I was really excited to see where the next chapter of my life was going,” he said. “I want to have an impact in this world, to know that when I leave work I did something that really mattered that day.”

Martin’s sentiment was echoed by Rimsky Denis, who matched with his first choice, a primary care track internal medicine residency at Rhode Island Hospital/Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School. Rimsky, whose mother, Germa, walked across the dais with him, has a strong interest in public health and providing care to underserved populations — an interest he has already been able to explore as Executive Director of the University of Miami Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Department of Community Service (DOCS) Program.

“I began college as an English literature major,” he said. “Then I read Mountains Beyond Mountains, a book about Paul Farmer, an infectious disease specialist in Boston who wants to cure the world of disease — especially in developing countries. I wanted to be just like him, and I immediately changed my major to biology. Medicine is the one thing I’ve found that makes me want to wake up in the morning.”

Some of the students sought matches that would take them back closer to their homes and families. One of them, Hartford, Conn., native Jonathan Nahas, was the first senior to be called up, and he matched for an internal medicine residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was in high school because I want to help others,” he said. “I looked forward to Match Day with anxiety and apprehension, but the day finally came, and it all worked out.”

Matthew Tsai, a native of Hawaii whose wife had him wear a tea leaf lei and a kukui nut lei for good luck, was another. Tsai, who has been in the Miller School’s M.D./Ph.D. program, was matched with an internal medicine residency combined with a research fellowship in gastroenterology at the University of California San Diego Medical Center. His career goal: clinician-scientist. He’s about to graduate from medical school, and his wife, Lindsay, is due to have their first child in two weeks. “It’s a very exciting time for me,” he says. “There will be a lot of changes, but I’m very happy about all of them.”

For couples in which both are medical students, not knowing what will happen next can be especially trying, although the National Resident Matching Program makes every effort to match them with residencies in the same locale, if not the same institution. Couples’ envelopes are stapled together, and the first pair to be drawn by Goldschmidt belonged to Steven Yang and Jennifer Ledon. Yang was matched with an orthopedic surgery residency at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center; Ledon will also be there for a preliminary year in medicine before returning to Miami for a dermatology residency at Jackson. “Ideally, we want to be together all four years,” said Ledon, “but couples matches are complicated. It was a lot to absorb in one day; now we’re just relaxing.”

Another couple, Marc Dauer and Gabriella Polyak, who are engaged to be married, had better luck. Dauer matched with a general surgery residency at Einstein/Montefiore Medical Center in New York City; Polyak matched with a pediatrics residency at the same institution. “It was the first choice for both of us,” said Dauer. “We feel really lucky, and I feel happy in a way that I never have before. In a sense, our whole lives were matched together at that moment.”

Polyak, however, had the audience on her side even before the envelopes were opened. “I already met my match,” she said of Dauer, with whom she was partnered in an anatomy laboratory class the first week of medical school, “so I don’t care what’s inside.” The crowd cheered as she opened her envelope with tears running down her cheeks.

The last student to be called was Sunil Keshwah, who matched with a pediatrics residency at Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, Ga. “It was a nervous, terrifying day,” he said. “I had the longest wait. At one o’clock, they texted everyone with their match, but the majority of us didn’t look.”

Still, Match Day benefits even those called last. Tradition has it that each student, upon leaving the dais, puts $5 into a basket. The student called last wins the prize pot. Keshwah collected nearly $600 but, he explained, the other tradition is that the winner buys a round for all the others after the ceremony is over, in addition to donating some of the funds to charity.

View photos of Match Day.

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