Match Day begins countdown to medical students' careers in medicine

Alexandra Dominianni celebrates during Match Day while holding a sign that says I Matched

Alexandra Dominianni, a fourth-year student in the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, celebrates after learning she matched with the Medical University of South Carolina at the college's Match Day ceremony on Friday.

Kris Hanning/University of Arizona Health Sciences

Students in the University of Arizona's College of Medicine – Tucson and College of Medicine – Phoenix stayed strong through intensive – and often exhaustive – studies, daunting board exams and a global pandemic that upended their education over the last four years.

It all culminated on Friday, when cheers erupted as nearly 200 students from the two colleges tore open envelopes and embraced each other and their loved ones in celebration during the colleges' Match Day ceremonies. The annual event is when students learn where they will spend the next three to seven years of their careers as physicians in specialized residency training programs.

A group of students posing for a photo on the steps of Old Main

Students at the College of Medicine – Tucson Match Day ceremony on Friday.

Noelle Haro-Gomez/University of Arizona Health Sciences

More than 40,000 soon-to-be graduates from medical schools around the country took part in the annual tradition, simultaneously learning where the National Residency Matching Program placed them.

"This exciting and significant milestone is one of the many in our students' journey to become physicians," Dr. Michael Abecassis, dean of the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson, told students at his college's ceremony. "The previous leg of your journey is nearly over, and being rewarded. You should be proud of what you have accomplished so far – and confident in your ability to succeed in this next chapter."

At the College of Medicine – Phoenix ceremony, Dr. Guy Reed, the college's dean, commended the class of 2023 for their focus throughout it all.

"You've been amazing in your journey to become a young physician. That is a challenge for most people, but you had an added complication: a worldwide pandemic that turned our universe and our world upside down. But you persevered, you endured, you succeeded," Reed said. "You are also amazing in your commitment to the journey ahead — a journey of professional growth and development and in service to others. Making others' lives better, healthier and longer."

Class of 2023 students headed to world-class institutions

The College of Medicine – Tucson's class of 2023 – 108 students – matched at 57 hospitals in 25 states, at institutions such as Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut; the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota; Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina; The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore; Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston; and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. The graduates will pursue specialties in areas such as otolaryngology, orthopedic surgery, neurological surgery, plastic surgery, dermatology, diagnostic radiology, and obstetrics and gynecology.

Nearly half of the College of Medicine – Tucson graduates will remain in Arizona and more than half of the class will go into primary care, helping address shortages across the state and nation. Residencies generally start in July, and residents are required to go to the institution to which they matched.

The College of Medicine – Phoenix's class of 2023, which included more than 70 students, matched into highly competitive specialties like anesthesiology, dermatology, neurological surgery, ophthalmic pathology and psychiatry.

Many will enter residencies at world-class institutions across the country, such as Phoenix Children's Hospital; Barrow Neurological Institute at Dignity Health St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix; Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center; Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee; and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

Angelica Alvarez Reyes holding up a sign with her Match Day match

College of Medicine – Tucson student Angelica Alvarez Reyes matched with Yale University for her neurosurgery residency.

Noelle Haro-Gomez/University of Arizona Health Sciences

The College of Medicine – Tucson's students included Angelica Alvarez Reyes, from Somerton, Arizona, who graduated from UArizona in 2016 with bachelor's degrees in neuroscience and Spanish literature. After she receives her medical degree in May, she will move across the country to Connecticut to begin her training in neurosurgery at Yale University.

Her undergraduate education in neuroscience, followed by professional experience in research labs, primed her interest in neurosurgery.

"I wanted to get into a field where I could enact change with my hands," she said. "I'm specifically interested in the spine – the spine is like a whole other world."

Peoria, Arizona, native Amanda Ruiz, another College of Medicine – Tucson student, matched into anesthesiology with her top choice, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Ruiz was first drawn to anesthesiology as a teenager, when her baby sister needed open-heart surgery and the anesthesiologist made a connection with her family.

"My sister was 4 months old, and as stressful as everything was, what really helped was her anesthesiologist talking to us before and after the surgery," Ruiz shared. "The way he was able to calm us down really stuck with me."

Tucson native Ahmad Safdar, another College of Medicine – Tucson student, matched to an internal medicine residency at his top choice, Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

Safdar's family has a history with heart disease; almost all of his uncles have had heart attacks. After watching them go to their cardiologists for treatment, Safdar was inspired to become a doctor for people like them. He hopes to mirror all the positive traits those uncles found in their cardiologists.

"They all were very empathetic, and they listened very closely to what my uncles had to say," Safdar remembers. "I would accompany many of them when they went to their cardiologist, and it felt more like a conversation than them being told instructions."

As a lifelong Tucsonan, Safdar is excited for a chance to live somewhere else and experience a different winter season.

"I haven't really experienced one before and I know Cleveland has some rough ones, so we'll see how that goes," he said.

This article originated from versions on the UArizona Health Sciences and College of Medicine – Phoenix websites.