Match Day Sends Miller School Seniors to Top Residency Programs

As Marvin Smith walked briskly to the stage, his own video camera capturing every move, he put on a cheerful face, but his heart was in overdrive. His mother, Cynthia Smith, a school principal, stood close by, nervously waiting for her son to tear open the envelope and publicly reveal where he matched for medical residency—the place he would spend the next several years as a physician in training.

Smith was one of 177 Miller School seniors gathered under a large white tent with family, friends, classmates and professors cheering them on as they took part in the annual event—the highly anticipated, often nerve-wracking ritual known as Match Day, held March 16 on medical school campuses across the United States.

Residencies are crucial for new physicians. Not only do they provide the additional clinical expertise in specific fields, but the cities where students train often become the places where they settle permanently.

Smith, a former college football captain and West Palm Beach native, marked the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital as his first choice. Not because he didn’t want to leave the state, but because UM/Jackson has one of the most sought-after orthopaedic surgery residency programs in the nation. After spending three years at UM’s regional campus in Palm Beach County, he added a year of research to beef up his resume and spent the next two years at the Miami campus.

Smith took the envelope from Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., opened it and shouted: “Jackson Memorial Hospital!” As mother and son embraced, no words were necessary.

At the same time across the nation, 15,712 medical school seniors were displaying a range of emotions before and after they opened envelopes announcing their residency. Ninety-five percent of all U.S. medical school seniors were matched successfully, the highest match rate in three decades, according to the National Resident Matching Program.

The emotional roller coaster was in full gear at the Miller School as envelopes were ripped open, screams and shouts were heard, and jubilant hands were raised in the air. There were more than a few tears of joy.

“I’m going to the nation’s capital—Washington Hospital Center,” shouted Joseph Greene. “Stanford!” said Gillian Reierson with glee. “Hi Mom and Dad, it’s UC Davis,” Denali Tice said as she looked to her family beaming proudly in the audience.

As Dean Goldschmidt randomly called name after name, the students shouted institution after institution. The Miller School’s curriculum had prepared students to win competitive residencies at top-tier institutions such as Harvard’s Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Georgetown University Hospital, Baylor University Medical Center, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Cleveland Clinic, UCLA Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Children’s National Medical Center.

“How many programs do you know of where everybody who graduates has a job?” Dean Goldschmidt asked the cheering crowd. “There’s always going to be a need for great doctors, and particularly Miller School of Medicine doctors. … As the Dean, I want to salute all of our students and all of our teachers.”

The National Resident Matching Program noted that 38,377 applicants from U.S. and foreign medical schools entered this year’s residency match, vying for 26,772 positions, 614 more than last year. That included 146 spots in pediatric neurology, which is part of the match for the first time.

Miller School students matched in nearly every specialty, with notable increases in students choosing pediatrics, emergency medicine, psychiatry, plastic surgery and obstetrics and gynecology. Forty-two percent of the students will head to primary care residencies, which includes OB/GYN.

“Our students continue to be sought after by the most competitive residency programs and institutions in the country,” said Alex J. Mechaber, M.D., senior associate dean for undergraduate medial education, associate professor of medicine and director of the Clinical Skills Program and Competency Assessment. “We have prepared them and know they will represent the Miller School well in their respective fields.”

Among those embarking on an OB/GYN residency this summer is Angela Reyes, a “double ‘Cane” who will miss South Florida but is excited about her future at the University of Illinois in Chicago, a city where she also has relatives.

“I really didn’t think I was going to match my top choice but I did, and I will be joining one of my colleagues from med school (Rachel Baskin),” said Reyes, who was surrounded by seven happy family members posing for keepsake photos. “It’s going to be a lot of hard work but it’s going to be in a field I can’t wait to be a part of.”

Kenneth Fan also will have a colleague and friend around when he heads to Georgetown University to fill one of the coveted residencies in plastic surgery. He exploded with joy, jumping up and down, whooping and hollering, when he heard his buddy Michael Defazio would be joining him in Washington, D.C. “Here comes trouble,” Fan warned.

Anthony Roggio escorted the oldest person to grace the stage, his 84-year-old grandmother Gloria Balta, who, wearing a crown of flowers, was all smiles over the news that her grandson would continue his training in emergency medicine at his No. 1 choice, New York Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia and Cornell.

“I’ve been asking since he was in second or third grade, ‘Are you a doctor yet?’” a beaming Balta said. “I took him all over the world, but that stage is the best place he’s ever taken me.”

About 20 percent of the seniors matched to UM/Jackson as Smith did. They include Jessica Warsch, who was accompanied on stage by husband Sean, a current resident at Jackson, and their 9-month-old son, Julian. His parents were thrilled with their news. Mom got exactly the radiology residency she wanted. “He’s going to continue the tradition here, too,” she said, snuggling her son.

When Dean Goldschmidt called the final name, Conrad Macon bounded to the stage. His long-suffering anxiety was worth the wait because the last student to be called also took home the basket brimming with the $5 bills each student had to pony up when they left the stage.

There was more good news when he ripped open his envelope to reveal he would train in internal medicine at his first choice. “I’m going to stay right here at Jackson Memorial Hospital,’’ he shouted joyfully. “Go ‘Canes!”

Watch CBS4 News coverage of Match Day at the Miller School.

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