School of Medicine celebrates Match Day 2015

UMKC medical students received folders with information about where they would train as residents.
UMKC medical students received folders with information about where they would train as residents.

Asha Nookala opened the envelope and read the words she wanted to see.

“I got in Mayo!” the UMKC medical student exclaimed before embracing friends and family members.

The envelope informed Nookala that she will spend four years training to be an anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. In addition to being one of the top hospitals in the world, the Mayo Clinic is close to home for Nookala, who is from Minneapolis.

Nookala, her School of Medicine classmates and thousands of medical students across the United States observed a milestone on Friday, March 20. Match Day, as it’s known, marks the culmination of years of hard work and the promise of a new beginning. On the same day, at the same hour, graduating medical students are presented envelopes notifying them where they will train as residents.

Students share the dramatic moment with loved ones. Balloons, flowers and one well-behaved pit bull were spread among the crowd that gathered in the courtyard in front of the School of Medicine.

Technology shortened the distance that stood between some students and their families. Minutes after learning she was accepted into the physical medicine and rehabilitation residency program at East Carolina University, Ajaya Moturu used her phone to have a video chat with her mother, who lives in Maryland, and her sister, who lives in Florida.

Moturu was eager to share the good news. “I grew up on the East Coast, and I wanted to go home,” she said.

A nonprofit organization, the National Resident Matching Program, determines the matches. A mathematical algorithm sorts the preferences the applicants and the residency programs submit after students have completed interviews at locations where they think they would like to train.

Recognizing that students often find a life partner during medical school, the National Resident Matching Program allows couples to pair their preferences.

Family medicine residents
Gretchen Woodfork and Ryan Stokes will train in family medicine at UMKC.

Gretchen Woodfork and Ryan Stokes will train in family medicine at UMKC.

Stokes and Woodfork, who met at UMKC and were married last summer, went through the couples match. They will train at UMKC’s family medicine residency program, which is based at Truman Medical Center-Lakewood.

Stokes said he was impressed by what he heard when he interviewed with the leaders of the family medicine residency program. “Even the weaknesses that they said they had, they were saying how they were actively trying to improve them,” he said.

Some students knew their results before Match Day. Ophthalmology and urology matches are announced in January. Two UMKC students were accepted into ophthalmology residency programs, and one matched in urology.

There is a separate match for prospective military physicians, as well. Four UMKC students learned in December that the Air Force had accepted their applications. Three were matched with programs at military hospitals.

The fourth, Sadie Alongi, will train in orthopaedic surgery at UMKC. Many Air Force physician officers train at civilian academic medical centers. Alongi was offered the opportunity to pursue this route, which required her to apply to programs through the National Resident Matching Program.

Applicants to the main match learn on the Monday before Match Day whether (but not where) they placed. Alongi was thrilled to find out she would be able to pursue her dream of becoming an orthopaedic surgeon.

“I could not be more thankful for this great opportunity ahead of me,” she said.

Alongi is one of 21 UMKC students who matched with a residency program at the UMKC School of Medicine or Children’s Mercy. Half of the students will enter a primary care residency (internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine and medicine/pediatrics).

Bailey Hunkler will train in internal medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

“It seemed like a great working environment, which is what I was looking for,” she said. “In particular, they have a large population of underserved patients with one of the hospitals they work with. That patient population I am passionate about working for.”

After two days of chill and rain, the ceremony took place under sunny skies and on the first day of spring.

“Somehow on Match Day, things clear up,” Felix Okah, M.D., assistant dean for career advising, said from the podium, before the envelopes were distributed.

Okah spoke after Dean Steven L. Kanter, who said the students were headed for success based on the paths taken by previous graduating classes.

“We are very, very proud of you,” the dean said. “Good luck.”