Across the country, 26,252 applicants learned at noon EST where they will spend the next three to seven years of their medical training. Match results are kept secret until that moment. As the clock struck noon, the Gookins opened their match envelopes on opposite U.S. coasts and shared their news in real time via social media. “We’re going to the Capital,” Glenn Gookin cheered, raising his match letter in the air. “Using Facetime to learn our future was stressful,” he said. “I felt a little disrespectful with my ear phone in. But we wanted to be there for each other. We’re so jazzed!”
A total of 74 UCF medical school seniors matched into residency programs in Orlando and across the country Friday – in specialties that included internal medicine, pediatrics, neurosurgery, dermatology, anesthesiology and radiation oncology. Locally, eight will do their residency training at Orlando Health and three at Florida Hospital. Across the country, three students matched at Harvard and others into similar top-tier programs like Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Mayo Clinic and the University of Pennsylvania.
National Match Day was the last hurdle before UCF’s Class of 2015 – the third in the young college’s history – graduates May 20.
Gookin and his wife had spent the last four years in long-distance training to become physicians. They’d met at Cal-Irvine, where Gookin earned his Ph.D. in environmental toxicology. They’d worked together to start a free clinic there – just as Gookin did in Orlando where he helped run UCF’s free clinic at Grace Medical Home. They both want to go into family medicine because it offers the opportunity to have live-long relationship with patients.
Match is similar to an online dating service. In the fall, medical school seniors interview at residency programs and then rank their preferred programs. Residencies, at universities and hospitals, list their top picks. A centralized computer spends weeks sorting and coming up with the best “match,” which is kept secret until Match Day.
Friday at UCF, gold luminary bags with cut-out stars and black tissue paper – signifying UCF’s colors and “reach for the stars” motto – lined tables on the Tavistock Green in front of the medical school’s clock tower. Each bag had a sealed envelope containing the student’s residency match. As the clock tower chimed noon, students – surrounded by their families — began a New Year’s Eve-type countdown and then ripped open their envelopes to screams, cheers and tears.
Erin Kane will do her emergency medicine residency at Barnes-Jewish Hospital at Washington University in her hometown of St. Louis. She has family there, and ran the casino floor at Harrah’s in the city before coming to UCF. A former EMT and firefighter, Kane’s passion is emergency and trauma care and Washington University was her first choice. “Oh, my God. I freaked out when I opened my envelope,” she said. “I am so excited.”
When he learned he will do his emergency medicine residency at Orlando Health, UCF student Cole Feffer immediately donned a purple Orlando City Soccer jersey with the hospital logo on it. Feffer said Orlando Health was his top choice because it treats physicians in training “like family.” He noted that early Friday he received texts from Orlando Health residents wishing him good luck and hoping he would soon join them. “I need to go buy season tickets to Orlando City,” he said. “I may be seeing some of the players in the ER.”
Of the 74 students who matched, 19 will do their residency training in Florida, including programs at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida State University, the University of Florida and the University of South Florida. Nationwide, students will train in locations from Iowa to West Virginia, California to Texas. Seven matched into military residencies.
Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and dean, celebrated the match results with students, faculty and staff, saying the Class of 2015 would be strong ambassadors for the young medical school as “they continue their training and care for patients across Orlando, Florida and the nation as UCF Physician Knights.”
Two of the newly-matched UCF students are brothers – Galal and Mohammed Elsayed. Galal is a year older and the siblings waited a year so they could enter medical school at UCF together. Mohammed matched into radiology at Harvard. Galal matched into neurological surgery at University of Alabama-Birmingham. Just before the match countdown, UCF faculty members James Sanders and Michael Bellew – both neurosurgeons – approached Galal as he stood behind his gold and black bag containing his match letter. He wished him good luck as they passed the neurosurgery torch onto the next generation. Galal appeared to fight back tears as he thanked both for teaching and mentoring him. Moments later, the two Elsayed brothers had residencies at their top choices. They hugged and high-fived. “This is a dream come true,” Mohammed said. “We are blessed to have gone through medical school and match as brothers.”
Watch a video version of this story.