Match Day 2016 Launches Exciting New Chapter for Miller School Students
Derek Estes’ joyful voice cried out “Jackson Memorial Hospital!” as he and his wife Emily opened the envelope and learned where he would be spending his internal medicine residency.
For the Estes, Friday was a day filled with life-changing themes. When they stepped off an early-morning flight with Alexis, the three-week-old baby they had just adopted in Virginia, it was only hours before Match Day activities would begin.
Match Day is the culmination of a secretive, tension-filled process that begins when graduating medical students apply to their top three residency choices. The programs make their selections, their acceptances are sealed in envelopes, and fourth-year students all across the country begin to learn their fates on Match Day at noon, Eastern Daylight Time, when the envelopes can be opened.
For the Miller School of Medicine, Match Day 2016 was one of the year’s truly special events. Nearly 200 fourth-year students, their families and friends, and a large contingent of faculty and administrators formed an overflow crowd under the tent on the Schoninger Research Quadrangle. The sealed envelopes were all placed in a large basket and Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., drew them at random, one at a time, and called out each student’s name. The student, with heart pounding, walked to the dais, opened the envelope and announced to all assembled where he or she had been accepted.
Derek Estes’ name was the first to be called by Dean Goldschmidt. With little Alexis in her father’s arms, the new parents joined the Dean, opened Derek’s envelope and learned the happy news.
“To say we’re excited is an understatement,” said Emily. Then, nodding toward her new daughter, added, “This is a big day all around.”
For Dean Goldschmidt, presiding over Match Day is one of his happiest duties.
“The Class of 2016 has achieved the best match record of any class since I have been Dean,” he announced, generating loud cheering and applause. “And,” he added, “this is the only true medical reality show in the world,” drawing much laughter from the crowd.
It wasn’t long afterward that Dean Goldschmidt drew a pair of envelopes that were stapled together — the sign of a couple hoping to be matched with one another, in the same city, if not the same institution. The envelopes belonged to Alana Eberlein and David Painter, two Midwesterners who met on a Miami Metrorail platform the first day of medical school orientation, and who will be married in Ohio on April 2. Eberlein’s voice broke as she announced that she was headed to University of North Carolina Hospitals for a residency in pediatrics, and Painter to Duke University Medical Center to pursue emergency medicine. Both will follow in the footsteps of family members in medicine — Eberlein’s father is a family practitioner in Cleveland; Painter’s brother is an Air Force surgeon stationed in Tokyo.
“Despite the cliché, we both decided to pursue medicine because of the desire to help people when they are at their most vulnerable, and hopefully change their lives for the better,” said Painter. “That, combined with a love of science and biology, led us to pursue a career in medicine.
“Miami will always be near and dear to our hearts because it brought us together. We will always be indebted to the University for believing in us enough to give us the chance to pursue our dreams of being physicians. The city of Miami has so much diversity and intensity that we feel well prepared in the social aspects of medicine, as well. North Carolina should prove to be a perfect balance of our Midwestern roots and our Miami flair.”
Another soon-to-wed couple, Lotiffa Colibao and Connor Morton, also successfully matched together — Colibao with an emergency medicine residency at Chicago’s Cook County-Stroger Hospital and Morton with a preliminary year in surgery followed by a residency in diagnostic radiology at Northwestern University McGaw Medical Center. Morton, who grew up in Stowe, Vt., and met Philippines-born Colibao in Tampa, where both were doing clinical research, looks forward to introducing her to snow. The two are being married in Vermont on June 4, and they sound well-matched in their approaches to their chosen careers.
“My life goal is to be worthy to serve others, and from my experiences in the Philippines and working with underprivileged communities here in the U.S., I learned that the greatest service I could offer to society was through medicine,” said Colibao. “I knew I wanted to specialize in emergency medicine because it was important to me to be able to help any type of patient, regardless of their background or ability to pay, with any medical problem at any time.”
“I went into medicine because I grew up in a large family that taught me the importance of hard work, education and caring for each other,” said Morton. “I love this profession for its combination of humility, challenges, love for humanity, and a lifetime of learning and teaching. I chose to specialize in interventional radiology because of the diversity of patients I get to take care of and for the opportunity to offer exciting increasingly minimally invasive therapies that are changing the landscape of medicine.”
Joining David Painter’s brother in the Air Force medical ranks will be 2nd Lieutenant Aaron Patzwahl, who will soon be promoted to Captain upon graduating from the Miller School. Patzwahl, a native of Fort Myers, was matched with his top choice — a family medicine residency at David Grant Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base in California. The son of Air Force parents who worked and met at David Grant — his father a physician assistant, his mother a nurse — he looks forward to a career in military medicine.
“Medicine in the Air Force affords some unique opportunities that I might not have in regular civilian medicine, such as humanitarian relief, and aerospace medicine,” Patzwahl said. “I selected family medicine as my specialty after a process of coming to love the outpatient clinical environment, desiring lasting patient interactions that span years and generations, and wanting to be able to care for people in all stages of their life, from prenatal care to geriatrics. Of all the specialties that I have worked with throughout medical school, family medicine also seemed to best understand the need for a healthy work-life balance.”
This year’s Match Day was considered especially successful due to the quality of programs with which Miller School students were matched.
“We are known for having outstanding residency matches at the Miller School, but this year ranks as one of the best we have had,” said Alex J. Mechaber, M.D., professor of medicine and Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education. “Our students matched into highly competitive specialties and prestigious institutions. This is a great testament to our students, our faculty who nurture them, and the patients we serve and learn from. The rich and diverse environment in which we work provides students with the best medical education you will find anywhere in the country. The future of health care is bright with these newly matched students.”
The spotlight was also on the Miller School’s own residency programs.
“The 2016 match was an overwhelming success for our students and our residency programs,” said Joan E. St. Onge, M.D., associate professor of clinical medicine and Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education. “One hundred percent of the UM/Jackson positions filled in the main residency match. Our newest program, Emergency Medicine, did very well in matching its inaugural class. The regional campus residency programs also had a very successful match. Overall, it was a great day for graduate medical education. The programs did well, and we are very pleased that many of our Miller School students chose to stay in our institution for their training.”
In all, 191 students are graduating with the Class of 2016. Of that total, 186 went through the matching process, four are in the military service and went through the military match, and one student who is going into research did not pursue a residency.
Still in Shock
Many of the members of the Class of 2016 who gathered for Match Day have volunteered time in the student-run Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Department of Community Service (DOCS). One of them, Ashley Taggart, served as Executive Director this year. A Miami native, she matched with an obstetrics-gynecology residency at Brigham & Women’s/Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
“I grew up wanting to be a doctor,” said Taggart. “I spent a good amount of time in the Miami Children’s ER because I kept getting injured as a kid — you could call me accident-prone — and something about the hospital just called to me. I volunteered at the first health fair of the year, in Hialeah, in my first year of medical school. That very same day, I performed my first pap smear alongside a physician, took my first OB/GYN patient history and truly connected with patients in a way that I was never able to before medical school. I fell in love with DOCS — both the opportunities it provided for students and the services it provided for patients.”
Taggart is now looking forward to spending time in Boston.
“I loved the program, the people and the city when I visited,” she said. “That was actually the first time I had ever been to Boston. I never thought I was going to get my first choice. I am still in shock!”
Also headed for an OB/GYN residency — but at George Washington University — is Erryn Tappy. The Denver native, who majored in biology as an undergraduate at the University of Colorado at Boulder, says she has wanted to study medicine since she was a young girl and connected with OB/GYN while pursuing a minor in women and gender studies.
“I saw just how integrated women’s health is with social justice issues and knew it would be a very fulfilling field for me,” she said. “Medical school kept me hooked as I learned how all encompassing OB/GYN is, with components based in surgery, medicine, public health and other medical fields. I also had really great mentors in the field, and I wanted to make a difference in women’s lives like they did.”
Tappy has a strong interest in urogynecology and envisions herself pursuing a fellowship in that field.
“Issues like incontinence and fistulas have such a large impact on women’s quality of life, and I hope to work both domestically and abroad to draw awareness and provide care related to these issues,” she said. “During medical school I have performed research and advocacy for marginalized patient populations, particularly the LGBTQ community, and I would love to continue this work throughout my career. Miami has taught me to believe in myself and to pursue changes I would like to see in the world. I will always be thankful for those experiences.”
Although several of the students in the Class of 2016 are following in the footsteps of relatives in medicine, most will be their family’s first physician. One of them is Sharon Wolfson, a Weston native who matched with a medicine/pediatrics combined program at Baylor College of Medicine. Part of her inspiration came from her mother, who was born with a condition that has resulted in numerous complications and hospitalizations throughout her life.
“I became inspired to pursue medicine so that I could combine my knack for science and research with my passion to make a positive impact in the lives of others,” Sharon said. “My experiences taught me the value of treating patients and their families with empathy and compassion. I chose the medicine/pediatrics combination because my goal is to treat adults with pediatric diseases who have aged out of their pediatricians’ offices.”
Each student has his or her own story, but some involve special challenges.
Tampa native Ashley Vandercar, a single mother, arrived at the Miller School with her son, David, then only three months old, in tow.
“It made my medical school experience different from most,” she said. “I never would have made it without lots of support from other medical students and some wonderful faculty members.”
Thanks to that support, she and David, now 4, are headed for Case Western University Hospitals and Medical Center in Cleveland for a residency in psychiatry.
For Kelli Columbo, the challenge was stage 3 non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which was diagnosed on the first day of her third year following mysterious bouts of chest pain and constant fatigue. Columbo took a year off for treatment at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center that involved surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
“It taught me a lot about the interaction between the mind and health,” she said. “I think I might be able to use my experience to help others.”
Now in remission for two years, Columbo is following that inspiration to a psychiatry residency at Stanford University.
Jose Ruiz arrived in Miami from Cuba at 17 speaking no English. He finished high school in an ESL program, then attended Miami-Dade College for two years, after which he headed to Williams College, a small liberal arts institution in the remote northwestern corner of Massachusetts, to finish an undergraduate degree in biology. That’s where his English really kicked in.
“Miami was a lot like Cuba,” he said. “I enjoyed having the chance to live in an environment with a very different cultural mix.”
With his wife, Laura, whom he calls “the CEO of the enterprise,” standing beside him, Ruiz announced that he was headed back to New England, to Brown University/Rhode Island Hospital for a residency in internal medicine. Ruiz looked happy; his wife looked relieved.
“She was more nervous than I was,” he joked.
Some statistical highlights of the Class of 2016:
• 27 percent of students are staying at JMH or a UM residency for training.
• 31 percent are remaining in the State of Florida for training.
• Specialties with increased numbers this year compared to last year are Medicine/Pediatrics (4 percent), OB/GYN (12 percent), Dermatology (5 percent) and Orthopaedics (4 percent).
• Graduates pursuing primary care fields (inclusive of OB/GYN) continue to rise overall — this year at 51 percent (up from 41 percent last year).
• The M.D./M.P.H. program, which will graduate its second cohort this spring, continues to have an impact on career choices — 63 percent of M.D./M.P.H. students chose primary care fields (inclusive of OB/GYN) compared to 40 percent in the traditional M.D. track.
• More M.D./M.P.H. students are continuing their training outside of Florida. Only 25 percent of M.D./M.P.H. students will train in Florida vs. 33 percent of students in the traditional M.D. track.
By tradition, each year one future physician receives a special Match Day reward. As the students who have been called up leave the dais, each puts $5 into a basket; the student who is called last wins the prize pot. The total collected this year approached $1,000, and it went to Miami native Bryan Perez, who was matched with an anesthesia residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
“It was totally worth the wait,” he said. “It gave me a chance to see my classmates, who have become like family, have their dreams come true.”
Perez’s prize was not destined to last long, however. Another Match Day 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. It wasn’t certain, however, how charity would fare this year.
Perez was all smiles as he said, “It will probably be multiple rounds.”
A link to many of the photographs taken during the Match Day ceremony can be found here. Additional photographs will be posted as they become available.