Med Students Find 'Match Day' Hard to Beat
Nearly 180 students at the UA's medical schools in Tucson and Phoenix learned where they will spend the next several years as resident-physicians — the important next step in building a career.

University Communications
March 20, 2017

Match Day 1.jpg

Match Day was a joyous occasion for UA College of Medicine – Phoenix students at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.
Match Day was a joyous occasion for UA College of Medicine – Phoenix students at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.

Tom Lotina, a fourth-year University of Arizona medical student, now knows where his dream of becoming a physician will take him for his residency training in family medicine.

Lotina, 52, was one of 98 students in the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson Class of 2017 and about 18,500 soon-to-graduate medical students across the country who participated in National Resident Matching Program ceremonies, coordinated to occur at the same time last Friday. The ceremonies celebrate "Match Day," the culmination of the complex process that matches graduating medical students with residency programs. The students learned where they will spend the next several years as resident-physicians — the next step in building a medical career.

An overflow crowd of medical students, their parents, siblings, spouses and children gathered for the College of Medicine – Tucson Match Day ceremony in DuVal Auditorium at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson. Similar festivities celebrated 80 fourth-year students at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix. Students at the UA College of Pharmacy also participated in the big day.

Opening his Match Day envelope, Lotina discovered that he matched with the University of Florida in Gainesville for his three-year family medicine residency. His top choices were the UF and UA family medicine residency programs, but he and his wife, Debbie, were hoping most of all for Gainesville.

"Debbie's family is in Florida," Lotina said, "and that means she will have lots of support while I work all those long hours. I'll have five weeks of night rotation my first year."

Like most medical students, Lotina entered medical school with his eyes wide open. He worked for 15 years as an acupuncturist and yoga teacher, always keeping in mind his goal of becoming a physician. At 48, he enrolled in the College of Medicine – Tucson and never looked back. Toward the end of his third year, he realized family medicine was the best fit for him.

"I just want to focus now on becoming a really good doctor, in the clinic, in the inpatient setting and in the ER," he said.

Forty-eight percent of the College of Medicine – Tucson Class of 2017 chose residencies in primary care (family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics) — areas in which Arizona and the nation face serious shortages.

Several students matched into prestigious programs, including Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic, Baylor and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

"It's such a satisfying feeling seeing the students' hard work over the last four years come to fruition," said Dr. Kevin Moynahan, deputy dean for education at the college. "Match Day has such a high positive energy. Looking around, you see and hear tears and screams of joy. It is very meaningful for students to find out where they matched with their peers, friends and families present. It's really a fantastic celebration of both hard work and a bright future."

Resident-physicians undergo in-depth on-the-job training in their fields under the supervision of practicing faculty physicians. Residency programs vary in length from three years for internal medicine and family practice to eight years for the most specialized of surgeons. Most residencies will begin on July 1.

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 College of Medicine – Phoenix

Balloons dropped and confetti fluttered to the ground at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus as medical students ripped open their Match Day envelopes.

Tijana Nikolich-Zugich described the experience as the best day of her life. She matched into Johns Hopkins Hospital for internal medicine.

"I've been to all three Match Days as a medical student and I've always shared the excitement, but I didn't realize what it really was like until I was opening my own envelope," she said.


Nikolich-Zugich completed a B.S. in physiology and a B.A. in gender and women's studies at the UA in Tucson before moving to Phoenix for medical school. She said Hopkins was "1,000 percent my first choice." She did a pulmonary rotation at the Baltimore hospital in June and "fell in love with the culture."

Surrounded by her family's cheers and happy tears, Tabarik Al-Abbadi's letter read "Maricopa Medical Center," her first choice for training in internal medicine and radiology.

"I keep re-reading my Match Day letter to make sure it's real," Al-Abbadi said. "I really wanted to be at Maricopa because of the amazing culture and environment, but I thought it was maybe too far-fetched of a dream."


Nine other College of Medicine – Phoenix students matched with Maricopa and another 10 will spend their residencies at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. 


Fifty-one students will train outside of Arizona, including distinguished programs at Stanford University, Duke University Medical Center, Yale-New Haven Hospital, Emory University School of Medicine, Baylor, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and UCLA Medical Center.


Dr. Susan Kaib, associate dean of student affairs, congratulated the students and families who successfully matched.

"They have persevered through intensive studies, long clinical hours, rigorous skills training and numerous interviews with the purpose of finding and matching into their perfect residency program," she said. "The Class of 2017 is everything we could have hoped for in a class. They are kind, compassionate, genuine and overall are amazing individuals. They will make excellent future physicians."

Extra info

UA College of Medicine – Tucson 

  • 98 students matched this year
  • 47 students matched into residencies in primary-care fields:
    • 14 in family medicine
    • 19 in internal medicine
    • 12 in pediatrics
    • 2 in medicine-pediatrics (a four-year combined internal medicine and pediatrics residency)
  • 30 graduates will complete their residencies in Arizona:
    • 14 in Phoenix
    • 15 in Tucson
    • 1 in Yuma
  • Video highlights from Match Day

UA College of Medicine – Phoenix

  • 80 students matched this year 
  • 27 matched into primary care 
  • 10 matched at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix
  • 10 matched at Maricopa Medical Center 
  • Video highlights from Match Day 

Also, the UA's 153rd Commencement ceremony will be held May 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Arizona Stadium.

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