Match Madness

Michael Scott was one of the brave students who didn’t peel open his envelope for a peek at his residency match before he was called to the podium.

“I think I need to know if there’s a cardiologist in the room, before I open this,” he joked, standing in front of his UF College of Medicine Class of 2011 classmates, their families and friends.

He smiled as he publicly read the results — he was headed to Scripps Mercy Hospital Program in San Diego for a transitional year, then to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami for a radiation oncology residency.

Scott was one of 120 medical students graduating May 14, who found out where they matched for their residency training during the college’s annual Match Day ceremony, held March 17 at the Paramount Hotel.  “You’ll never forget this day,” said Michael Good, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine.

Twenty-one students chose a primary care specialty, such as family or internal medicine, pediatrics or obstetrics/gynecology. Twenty-seven percent will stay in Florida for their residencies, with 17 percent doing their residency at UF, said Patrick Duff, M.D., the college’s associate dean for student affairs.

The National Resident Matching Program matches prospective residents to residencies using a mathematical algorithm that compiles students’ and institutions’ top choices. The decision determines not only where the medical students will complete their residencies but what specialties they will enter. All graduating medical students in the U.S. find out about their “match” on the same day at noon.

Leonardo Pena and his fiancée Reshelle Smith, who are getting married April 16, were one of three couples in the class who opted to match someplace together for their residencies. Pena will be doing anesthesiology, while Smith will do obstetrics/gynecology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The pair both took a look at their match, then kept the results mum from their family, sitting with them at the event, until they were publicly announced.

“Our moms wanted to kill us because we wouldn’t tell,” Pena said.

Other couples were reunited with their significant others through their matches. Class president Mariana Khawand is doing her family medicine residency at New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York, her first choice. It will allow her to be near her fiancé Jonathan “Yoni” Azoulai, M.D., a 2009 UF COM graduate and a second-year emergency medicine resident at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

“He went up with me and I said whatever I get — you’ve got to smile,” said Khawand, who didn’t open the envelope until the couple went on stage together.

With her three-month-old son Whitton nearby, Dawn Butler said she was thrilled to have landed a pathology residency at the UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville, where her husband Josh is doing his second year of a dermatology residency.

Popular choices for residencies this year included internal medicine, radiology and emergency medicine. However, Jamal Carter was interested in the research side of medicine and got his first choice — a residency in pathology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

“I had my first taste of snow on the interview trail, but it didn’t scare me off,” said the Miami native.

Kristina Betters found out she was one of 10 graduating UF medical students who would be doing their residency at Emory University in Atlanta, a popular match site this year.

But she had to wait extra long — Betters didn’t peek at her match, and her name was the last one announced at the Match Day event. That meant she won the jar her classmates filled with $1 bills as their names were called.

“I didn’t sleep last night. People were so freaked out,” she said. “It’s a like being a little kid waiting for Christmas morning.”