March 21, 1997

Match Day answers residency questions – Future addresses unveiled to graduating medical students

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Graduating medical student Karen Bonar and her husband, Robert, react with joy as they learn where she matched.

Match Day answers residency questions – Future addresses unveiled to graduating medical students

Julie Snell (left) and Gail Addlestone were among the happily surprised graduating medical students at Match Day.

Julie Snell (left) and Gail Addlestone were among the happily surprised graduating medical students at Match Day.

Chris Sonnenday marks his match on the map.

Chris Sonnenday marks his match on the map.

Elizabeth Kau (right) looks on as Kristina Ishihara opens her match envelope.

Elizabeth Kau (right) looks on as Kristina Ishihara opens her match envelope.

 Michael Thigpen let his hats do the talking to reveal where he had matched.

Michael Thigpen let his hats do the talking to reveal where he had matched.

When their own Match Day rolls around, fourth-year medical students have different ways of opening the envelope that contains the location of their residencies.

Some rip it open on the way back to their seats. Others sneak away to a quiet corner in Light Hall or hide in a restroom stall. Still others go home to open their envelopes in complete solitude before coming back to campus to celebrate.

On Wednesday, Michael Thigpen had a fresh approach.

He carried his envelope to a table in front of the lecture hall. With shaking hands, he placed three baseball caps on the table, each emblazoned with a university logo: University of Colorado, University of Virginia and Washington Huskies. Then, he opened his envelope and calmly placed the corresponding cap on his head.

When he triumphantly raised his arms above his head and grinned broadly, his classmates erupted in shouts and applause. It was first choice for Thigpen ‹ a residency in Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

"I decided I really wanted to share this with my classmates," said Thigpen, explaining his decision to reveal his fate in such a public way. "This is a great group of people I've been with for the past four years. I'm going to miss them."

Thigpen and his Vanderbilt University School of Medicine classmates were among the thousands of graduating U.S. medical students across the country who learned Wednesday where they had "matched" for their post-graduate training.

Match Day is held at the same time at each medical school across the country. Dr. Deborah C. German, associate dean for Students, began handing out the sealed envelopes at 11 a.m. sharp.

The National Residency Match Program (NRMP) was established in 1952 to provide an orderly and fair method of matching residency applicants and programs. After a lengthy application process and on-site interviews, both applicant and hospital groups prepare lists of their preferences. Students and programs are then matched by computer.

German told the Vanderbilt class that 90 percent of them had matched to their first, second or third choice, and 96 percent had matched to one of their top four preferences.

"As a class, you've exceeded my expectations, which were pretty high," German said. "You should be very proud, because I am."

The list of residency assignments for Vanderbilt students is filled with top-quality programs, German said. "These students aimed high and they achieved it."

Jen McCoy's was the first name to be called.

"I said I'd throw up if my name was first, but now I'm glad I was," McCoy said after learning that she'd be doing an Obstetrics-Gynecology residency at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Hyde Park, N.Y. It was also her first choice.

Forty-five anxiety-filled minutes later, German came to the last envelope. "You know who you are, come on down," German said, looking to the back of the room.

After a brief hesitation, Matt Kaufman collected his envelope and a fishbowl full of one-dollar bills. By tradition, each student places a dollar in the bowl, which goes to the last person called as a reward for the tortuous wait.

"I just wanted the money," Kaufman joked after admitting that for a very short moment, the horrible thought struck him that the last envelope might not have been his. Kaufman was pleased with his match, an Ophthalmology residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston after a year of training in Medicine at the University of Virginia.

The match process was a lesson in marital negotiation for Carol Kikkawa and Matthew Hook, whose wedding is only two weeks away.

Kikkawa and Hook did a "couple's match," which meant that they would do residencies at the same location. It also meant they had to agree on their preference list, and they didn't learn where they had matched until Wednesday.

Compiling their list was difficult, Kikkawa said, but they were both excited yesterday to learn they would be going to the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Va. Hook will be in internal medicine and Kikkawa in pediatrics.

"The whole list was a compromise ‹ it had to be ‹ but we're really happy," Kikkawa said.

Kikkawa and Hook, who met during their first year of medical school, were among three engaged or married couples matching together Wednesday. Brian and Michelle Curtis will go to the University of Missouri in Kansas City, Brian to study Medicine and Michelle to study Obstetrics/Gynecology. Neeraja Boyapati and Josh Peterson, who will be married in September, are headed for Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

Boyapati and Peterson, who began dating two years ago, both will do residencies in internal medicine. Right now, Boyapati is setting her sights on a career in primary care, while Peterson said he may eventually go into academic medicine.

Of the 100-member class, 81 will be leaving Nashville to pursue training in other cities.

Among them is Veronica Gunn, who will do a residency in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Md. "We're moving to Hopkins," she excitedly told her husband, Peter, a manager of a smoke shop in Green Hills. Then she hugged classmate Jane Hong, who will do an internal medicine residency at Hopkins, a first choice for both.

Before Match Day festivities began, Hong and Gunn said that the waiting had not been as nerve-wracking as they had expected.

"It was really harder making up our list and ranking our preferences," Hong said. Still, when she opened her envelope, relief clearly showed in her face. "I'm totally in shock right now," she said, seemingly unable to take her eyes off her match document.

Among the 19 students who will stay at Vanderbilt University Medical Center for residency is Jule West, whose journey to medical school has been unusual. West earned a master's degree in the Vanderbilt School of Nursing's Bridge Program and practiced as a nurse for two years before deciding to enter medical school.

West said she thought her experience as a nurse gave her a unique and valuable perspective for the years ahead as a physician.

"When I came to medical school, some of my classmates thought it would be easier for me because of my nursing degree," she said. "The first two years were just as difficult for me because it was more hard science. I think that when we got to the clinical part, it may have been easier because I had a little more familiarity with taking care of patients and being comfortable with sick people.

"Because of my background, I'm very aware and sensitive of the role of the nurse as a partner on the team, and I've encouraged my classmates to be sensitive to the role of nurses and ancillary staff because everyone's role is really important in taking care of the patient."

More than half the Vanderbilt class, 51 students, will pursue training in the generalist specialties of family practice, internal medicine and pediatrics. That proportion mirrors national trends, according to the NRMP, which said that for the third straight year, more than half of graduating U.S. medical students will enter first-year residencies in a generalist area.

Twenty-seven members of the graduating class will do residencies in internal medicine, while 19 are entering pediatric residencies, three in medicine/pediatrics, and two in family practice. In addition, 13 other students will be pursuing residencies in obstetrics/gynecology.

Other choices among the class: eight in general surgery, five in otolaryngology, four in urology, three in neurosurgery, two each in dermatology, emergency medicine, ophthalmology, oral/maxillofacial, orthopaedic surgery and diagnostic radiology, one in plastic surgery, and three in other specialties.