On March 16, after four years of study, lectures, clinical rotations, exams and sleepless nights, Caitlin McCarthy and 162 of her College of Human Medicine classmates learned which residency programs had accepted them, and where they would spend the next three to six years of their lives.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “This is what we’ve worked for, and now it comes down to this.”
Graduating medical students gathered at all seven of the college’s community campuses, counting down to noon, when they would open their envelopes, ending the suspense. All across the country, thousands of other medical students awaited that same moment.
Early in their fourth year of medical school, each had applied to residency programs in their chosen specialties, traveled the country for interviews and filled out forms listing their preferred choices in order. The residency programs, meanwhile, listed in order the new doctors they would most like to admit.
Both lists were fed into a computer operated by the nonprofit National Resident Matching Program, putting the fate of the medical students in the hands of an algorithm that determined the contents of the envelopes they now held.
“I don’t know where I’ll end up,” said John Kanitra. “It’s nerve wracking when I think that all of medical school has built up to this day.”
Andrew Ciennik had applied to 17 emergency medicine programs all over the country and listed all of them in preferred order.
“I’d be happy at any of those places,” he said, while conceding he was feeling “a nervous energy. But, honestly, it’s a blessing, because I know that however it turns out, I’m going to get to do what I want to do.”
Renuka Gera, community assistant dean for the Lansing campus, told the students the match “is kind of like an arranged marriage. Even for those students who weren’t about to match with their first choice, I can assure you it’s going to grow on you.”
Primary care residencies were chosen by 85 of the students, including internal medicine, family medicine and pediatrics. Although they didn’t yet know it, 70 of the soon-to-be doctors will remain in Michigan for their residency training.
And then the moment arrived. McCarthy tore open her envelope and tears of joy streamed down her face. She’d matched with Cleveland Clinic, her first choice. Kanitra matched with his first choice: St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, near his National Guard unit.
Ciennik and his girlfriend, Aubrey Valleau, were happy to learn he’d be doing his emergency medicine residency in San Diego.
“I secretly wanted it to be San Diego,” she said.
“I’m happy to put the snow behind us for three years,” he added.
Cell phones came out and students began texting and tweeting their news, while Twitter messages from their classmates at the six other campuses scrolled down large screens along the wall.
Wherever they are headed, Dean Norman Beauchamp Jr. urged the students to remember an aphorism: “I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that, and then I realized I am somebody.”
“You are those somebodies,” he said.