Match Day typically draws hundreds of student and families. This year, amid COVID-19 concerns, the traditional ceremony was canceled, and students celebrated virtually or with small groups of family and friends instead. College of Medicine Tucson students Cazandra Zaragoza and Ivan Aispuro (holding T-shirts) celebrated with loved ones at a local park. (Photo: Kris Hanning/University of Arizona Health Sciences)
Match Day typically draws hundreds of student and families. This year, amid COVID-19 concerns, the traditional ceremony was canceled, and students celebrated virtually or with small groups of family and friends instead. College of Medicine Tucson students Cazandra Zaragoza and Ivan Aispuro (holding T-shirts) celebrated with loved ones at a local park. (Photo: Kris Hanning/University of Arizona Health Sciences)

Medical Student Residencies Unveiled as Global Health Crisis Continues

More than 200 students at UArizona Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix are advancing to the next phase of their professional journey.
March 24, 2020
Ivan Aispuro will complete his residency at LAC+USC Medical Center. (Photo: Kris Hanning/University of Arizona Health Sciences)
Ivan Aispuro will complete his residency at LAC+USC Medical Center. (Photo: Kris Hanning/University of Arizona Health Sciences)
Cazandra Zaragoza and Ivan Aispuro show off their Match Day T-shirts. (Photo: Kris Hanning/University of Arizona Health Sciences)
Cazandra Zaragoza and Ivan Aispuro show off their Match Day T-shirts. (Photo: Kris Hanning/University of Arizona Health Sciences)

With COVID-19 pandemic concerns foremost in their thoughts, more than 200 students at the University of Arizona Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix learned on March 20 where they will first practice medicine as they begin the next phase of their professional journey.

Each year, fourth-year medical students across the country find out at the same time and on the same day where they've been placed for their residencies through the National Resident Matching Program. This year, the tradition continued for class of 2020 students at the Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix.

They were among the largest ever residency match in the United States, as more than 40,000 medical students applied to residency programs throughout the country.

Creating a Virtual Experience

To protect public health in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix reinvented their landmark Match Day celebrations – which typically draw hundreds of students, friends and family – to celebrate a capstone moment in a more private and safe manner: virtual parties, at-home gatherings and other social distancing observations.

Students were key to the decisions to change the celebrations on both campuses. In Tucson, fourth-year students Courtney Karol and Tanwe Shende have been leading a student government committee that has been planning the event for a year.

"This is a day we have been anticipating and working towards for four years now," they said in an email to their class. "And it is sad to accept that in light of COVID-19 and our social responsibility as a university and as almost physicians, it will have to look different than what we envisioned."

Medical students like Ivan Aispuro and Cazandra Zaragoza from the College of Medicine – Tucson held smaller, private celebrations with their friends and loved ones to celebrate their match results.

Both students learned where they will be doing their residency via email: Zargoza at the University of California, San Francisco and Aispuro at LAC+USC Medical Center. They celebrated with a small gathering of family at Tucson-area park.

"I was grateful to be with my family," Zaragoza said. "The day was filled with mixed emotions but at the end of the day, I am so proud and grateful to be pursuing the career of my dreams."

"We are extremely proud of our class of 2020," said Dr. Michael Abecassis, dean of the College of Medicine – Tucson. "Their collective achievements are the result of their hard work and embody the COM-T stated mission to advance health and wellness through education, research and patient care."

At the College of Medicine – Phoenix, Match Day was turned into a virtual experience, with Associate Dean of Student Affairs Dr. Susan Kaib emceeing a livestream via Zoom videoconferencing. Each student who matched was called upon to share their results over live video or via telephone after learning their match via email.

Family members were encouraged to capture video of students' reactions as they opened their envelopes. More than half of the class shared their videos with the College of Medicine – Phoenix after the virtual event, and the communications and marketing team created a recap video as a keepsake. The video includes heartfelt remarks from the leadership team and features a nod to the importance of social distancing, as well as a flash mob dance.

"Early on, your class nicknamed itself the 'classiest class.' This nickname is what we used to design your first Match Day," Kaib said in the live presentation. "You were willing to forgo the traditional formality of a party, to operate and share your celebration from a distance to protect others ... you sacrificed a traditional gathering to help build a new, innovative and exciting experience for your class – which in and of itself is classy."

College of Medicine – Tucson Match Results

This year, 115 medical students at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, learned where they will practice medicine as residents.

Graduates will pursue a variety of specialties including plastic surgery, dermatology, anesthesiology, neurosurgery and sports medicine. Nearly half of the class will go into primary care, helping address the dire need for more primary care physicians throughout the state and nation.

In addition to in-state hospitals, students matched at such prestigious institutions as Harvard Massachusetts General Hospital, Mayo Clinic, UT Southwestern, Stanford University, Vanderbilt University, University of California at San Francisco, University of Washington and University of Chicago.

Thirty-eight graduates will complete their residencies in Arizona.

  • 28 in Tucson (15 primary care)
  • 7 in Phoenix (all primary care)
  • 2 in Scottsdale
  • 1 in Kingman (1 primary care)

Twenty-eight graduates matched with UA College of Medicine – Tucson residency programs.

  • 23 will train at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson through the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson Graduate Medical Education Program
  • 5 will train at Banner – University Medical Center South through the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson South Campus

Fifty-six graduates matched into residencies in primary care fields, defined as family medicine, general internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology

  • 25 in internal medicine
  • 15 in family medicine
  • 12 in pediatrics
  • 2 in obstetrics and gynecology
  • 1 in emergency medicine pediatrics (a five-year combined emergency medicine and pediatrics residency)
  • 1 in internal medicine pediatrics (a four-year combined internal medicine and pediatrics residency)

College of Medicine – Phoenix Match Results

This year, more than 90 medical students at the University of Arizona College of Medicine — Phoenix learned where they will practice medicine as residents, including four couples.

Medical students will pursue a variety of specialties including anesthesiology, dermatology, plastic surgery, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, radiology, radiation oncology, vascular surgery, and urology.

Forty-three students will practice in Arizona.

  • 24 at Banner University Medical Center – Phoenix
  • 6 at Banner University Medical Center – Tucson
  • 5 at Mayo, Abrazo and Tucson Hospitals Med Ed
  • 4 at Phoenix Children's Hospital
  • 4 at Creighton University Affiliated Hospitals

Thirty-six of the above graduates will complete their residencies in Arizona, seven people will have a preliminary year in Arizona, then go elsewhere for a specialty residency.

A third of the class will go into primary care fields, defined as family medicine, general internal medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology.

In addition to in-state hospitals, students matched at prestigious institutions including Tulane University, Mayo Clinic, Vanderbilt Hospital, Yale University and Johns Hopkins University Medical School.

A version of this story originally appeared on the University of Arizona Health Sciences Connect website: https://healthsciences.arizona.edu/connect/features/uarizona-med-student-residencies-unveiled-amid-covid-19-pandemic.