In February, students submit their list of choices in order of preference — at the same time residency program directors submit their rank-ordered lists of preferred candidates — to the National Residency Matching Program headquarters in Washington, D.C. A computer matches each student to the residency program that is highest on the student’s list and that has offered a position to the applicant.
Residency programs vary in length from three years for general medicine/family practice specialties to seven years for the most specialized surgeons.
View the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix Match Day photos online.
Meisje Burton is following in her father's footsteps, training to be an OB/GYN. On Friday, Burton found out where the next step in her path to become a physician will take her: Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix.
"It was my first choice," Burton said. "I love the culture and the fact that they help an underserved population. It is the perfect fit for me."
Burton was one of 66 graduating students from the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix (in addition to the 99 students at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson) who found out where they matched in residency training programs.
Match Day is the culmination of a complex, yearlong process that matches the nation's graduating medical students with residency programs, most of which begin July 1. This year, 53,642 U.S. and international applicants competed for 30,750 positions across the nation.
The sixth graduating class at the downtown Phoenix campus celebrated with family and friends amid a flash mob of student dancers, confetti and a surprise envelope drop that delivered the news. The Phoenix campus was established to help address the critical shortage of physicians in Arizona and admits 80 students per class, with the goal of growing to 120 students per class. Last year, it received more than 5,000 applications.
In addition to Arizona placements, graduates of the college matched into prestigious programs at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Yale-New Haven Hospital, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The class also successfully matched into extremely competitive programs such as ophthalmology, radiology, orthopedic surgery and otolaryngology.
"These students make us proud because of all their community involvement and their humanism, which they’ve demonstrated every year, and I’m very excited for them," said Dr. Violet Siwik, the college's interim associate dean for Student Affairs.
Dr. Jacque Chadwick, vice dean of Academic Affairs, said it was impossible to say how proud she is of the students. "It was a tremendous Match Day and I'm proud of all their accomplishments over the last four years," she said.
On Match Day in Tucson, fourth-year UA medical student Shawn Ong danced across the stage of DuVal Auditorium at Banner – University Medical Center after opening his envelope to learn that he will be doing his residency training in internal medicine at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Ong and others in his UA College of Medicine – Tucson class had anticipated this day since their first day in medical school, nearly four years ago. It’s the next step in building a medical career.
Whitney Burns and Jeffrey Robertson, both of whom received their undergraduate degrees from the UA, already were a match: They will marry next month. But on Friday, their excitement was all about Match Day. Burns matched into one of two emergency medicine residency programs offered by the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, where Robertson will do his residency in anesthesiology.
"We are so happy. This is our first choice. This is where we want to be," Burns said. "We have our roots here, and we have our friends and family here, and we love the faculty here. We are just so happy."
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, overall 38.7 percent of medical and osteopathic students end up practicing in the same state where they received their undergraduate medical education. Notably, nearly half of Arizona medical school graduates end up practicing in-state.
UA residency programs provide training in environments known for their diverse patient populations and exceptional faculty-to-resident ratios, and they are crucial in attracting and training doctors who will remain in Arizona.
Mandy Boltz also will stay in Arizona, where she will study family medicine at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix.
"I couldn’t be more thrilled," Boltz said. "It is a dream come true. The process of being matched is crazy. It is exciting to see everything come to fruition."
UA College of Medicine – Tucson officials were equally pleased with the students' outcomes, with nearly 40 percent choosing residencies in primary care — in which Arizona and the nation face serious shortages. Several students matched into prestigious programs out of state, including Yale, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York and others.
Brandon Hammond, a Tillman Scholar and U.S. Navy veteran, will study pediatrics and anesthesiology after moving out of state to train at University of North Carolina Hospital in Chapel Hill.
Hammond said he decided to pursue a career in medicine after his father suffered a stroke and his mother had a heart attack. He took prerequisite pre-med courses at night and said he found the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix by chance.
"When I started looking at the program, the UA had an opportunity for rural rotations, so I spent some time in Page," Hammond said. "I also liked the college's emphasis on giving back to the community and for the opportunities to do research."
Dr. Kevin Moynahan, deputy dean for education at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, said this year's Match Day was one of the most successful.
"It's really great to see the students' four years of hard work finally realized, and for them to be able to say 'I've done it,'" Moynahan said. "Even though graduation may be the ultimate ceremony, this day means the most to the students. They know where they're going. They’ve been accepted into the profession."