Tovah Williamson’s fascination with surgery began when she was 15 and underwent back surgery to correct scoliosis. To help her cope with the treatment, she said she “intellectualized” the surgery and tried to learn every step and detail involved in the process.

“Because he saw my growing interest, I was later able to shadow the physician that did my surgery,” Williamson says. “And then in high school, another surgeon I was shadowing let me scrub in for surgery and that was an incredible experience. It was then I knew for certain I wanted to become a doctor.”

She is now another step closer to that dream after matching into a general surgery residency at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Williamson, whose father was a sonar man in the Navy, is one of three final-year UCF medical students who matched into military residencies recently and will train at military hospitals across the country after they graduate in May.

All three students are recipients of the military’s Health Professions Scholarship, which covers tuition and living expenses for medical students who agree to serve their country for one year for each year of scholarship. Students match into residencies at military hospitals or do their military service after civilian residencies.

Medical school graduates must complete a residency program in their chosen specialty before they are able to practice. Students apply for and then interview with residency programs and rank their choices. Residency programs do the same. A computerized service then matches the top choices from both. Some specialties, including urology, ophthalmology and military-based residencies, announce matches early ahead of the National Match Day scheduled March 15. On that day, thousands of medical students across the country will learn where they will complete residency training.

Asanka Ekanayake will join Williamson at Walter Reed and will specialize in internal medicine, an area he became drawn to during his clinical rotations. Ekanayake, whose sister is a family medicine physician in the Navy, says training with the military offers a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.

“Whether I am serving on a relief mission or providing care in a hospital setting, I know that my work will have a direct, meaningful impact on the well-being of those who serve our country or need our assistance,” he says.

The third student, Leeann Hu, will train in internal medicine at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Portsmouth, Virginia.

The recent matches bring the total number of UCF students matched into military residencies to 40 since the medical school began in 2009.

Assistant Dean for Students Soraya Smith congratulated the students on their accomplishments and commended them for their hard work and dedication.

“I am so excited to be able to witness such an exciting milestone in their journey to becoming physicians,” she says. “I know they will accomplish great things and be a wonderful representation of the UCF College of Medicine.”