Stories of an untraditional medical student and two siblings who fulfilled their dream
Tears flowed down his cheeks as UMKC medical student Keith Loftin embraced his wife on Match Day inside the UMKC Student Union, holding a letter in his hands that spelled out the next four years of their lives. His misty-eyed parents looked on as well as he read the news.
Loftin had matched in a residency position at Samaritan Health Services in Corvallis, Oregon, where he will enter his preferred specialty of psychiatry.
“It’s amazing to be here with all these people who have supported me, all the people who care about me,” Loftin said. “It’s all kind of surreal right now.”
Loftin was one of the 112 members of the UMKC School of Medicine class of 2023 that participated this year’s National Resident Matching Program. Like many in the class, he was elated at receiving his first choice of residency positions.
“I found psychiatry and realized how much I connected with it and how much I loved working with my patients and decided this is where I need to be,” Loftin said. “It felt like this is where I belonged.”
His journey to becoming a physician, however, took a different path than the rest of his classmates, most of whom are half his age.
Prior to moving with his wife and two children to Kansas City and entering medical school, Loftin was a high school science teacher in Jefferson City, Missouri. Before that, he spent nearly seven years in the Army working on Chinook helicopters, then returned to school to earn a master’s degree in education. All the while, Loftin, who earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and science at the University of Missouri before joining the Army, said he harbored a hidden desire to become a doctor.
“I was teaching a class for high school students who wanted to enter health care and they kept asking me why I hadn’t gone to medical school,” he said. “After about the 100th conversation my wife and I had about it, she finally said you know what you need to do and that started the ball rolling.”
With the backing of his wife, and while still teaching his high school classes, Loftin began the tedious process of studying for the MCAT exam and preparing to become a full-time student again for the first time in nearly 17 years.
“Medical school was a challenge, but doable,” he said. “I faced a lot of personal challenges.”
During his time as a medical student, Loftin underwent multiple surgeries for back injuries from his time in the Army and helped his wife through the loss of her mother. His efforts paid off on Friday. Loftin applied for residency positions in psychiatry at hospitals across the country from Oregon to Florida, knowing the day would come when he would have to move his wife, a 17-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son again.
“It’s a little tough,” he said. “It’s not so bad for me. I moved six times to different duty stations when I was in the Army. It’s going to have its challenges, moving my family, but I know my son is excited about it.”
Brother and sister
While Loftin celebrated with his family, Mozammil and Sumaiya Alam were enjoying the day with family and friends as well. The brother and sister from Kansas City, Missouri, had the unique experience of going through Match together.
Mozammil received his desired match in neurology and will be headed to the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix. Sumaiya matched in internal medicine at Emory University School of Medicine.
“I’m going to Atlanta,” Sumaiya screamed. “ I started crying before I even opened my envelope. This is what I was dreaming.”
Mozammil was sharing a similar excitement.
“There is so much joy right now,” he said. “We both got the matches we wanted.”
While the two were able to lean on each other for support throughout medical school, they were also able to turn for advice about the residency process to their brother, Mobashshir Alam, a 2018 graduate of the UMKC School of Medicine and now a gastroenterology fellow at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.
“He was really helpful in guiding us through the match process,” Sumaiya said.
Mozammil said having his sister by his side helped as they have gone through the same highs and lows of medical school together.
“We definitely have relied on each other for multiple things,” he said. “During the interview season we were always there to support each other.”
Nearly half of the UMKC students who matched will be entering residency programs in one of the primary care specialties. Internal medicine drew the largest number of students with 19, followed by family medicine with 11 and pediatrics with nine. A growing number of graduates will also be going into psychiatry, which had 11 matches.
Twenty students will remain in Kansas City to do their residencies at UMKC School of Medicine-sponsored programs. Overall, 33 UMKC grads – about a third – will stay in Missouri for their residency programs.
See the full list of UMKC School of Medicine students who matched in programs across the United States from Honolulu, Hawaii, to New York.
School of Medicine Dean Mary Ann Jackson, M.D., congratulated the class, calling Match Day a defining moment in their journeys.
“The lessons you learned here will carry you through your career,” Jackson said.