March 19, 2009 | The futures of 140 College of Medicine seniors at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) were decided with the rip of an envelope and the roar of a spirited crowd this week.
The annual Match Day ceremony, celebrated by senior medical students nationwide, brought the UAMS College of Medicine class of 2009 together March 19 at West End Smokehouse & Tavern to find out where they would be serving their residencies.
A tightly packed house of family and friends watched intently as students were handed an envelope and one-by-one took their turn under the stage lights to announce their next destination.
For senior Ida Mehdizadegan, the anticipation and anxiety leading up to the event was worth it.
“So much is riding on where you get matched,” Mehdizadegan said. “The rest of your life is affected by this day, especially in my case, and I couldn’t be happier right now with the way things turned out.”
“I got it and we’re very excited,” she said.
Relationships seemed to play a part in several of the hopes of senior medical students. Kim Jensen and her husband also rolled the dice on their immediate future.
Jensen’s husband, Steve, is nearing the start of training to become an F-16 pilot in the U.S. Air Force in Phoenix and hopes to land a highly sought after position flying jets based at Hill Air Force Base near Salt Lake City.
“We’re gambling a little bit in hopes that we’ll both end up in the same part of the country and right now it looks like we’re one step closer,” said Kim Jensen, who was matched with an internal medicine residency in Salt Lake City. “This is all we can hope for right now. Now he has to do his part.”
As students’ names were called, they made their way to a stage and were handed individual envelopes. Some students ripped them open right away, while some waited for their big moment on stage in front of the microphone.
Class of 2009 President Vishal Bhakta, who received an internal medicine residency at UAMS, said he wanted to find a way for this class to break new ground on Match Day. With the friends and relatives of students who live around the world and couldn’t make it to Little Rock for the ceremony in mind, he created a Web site – www.UAMS2009.org – where the day’s events were streamed live over the Internet.
“This is the first time it’s ever been done,” Bhakta said. “This way friends and family around the world can share the experience with us as all of the excitement unfolds.”
Results of the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) are released simultaneously to more than 20,000 medical school students nationwide. A computerized system controls the selection process and matches fourth-year students with residency openings based on student preference and availability.
Richard P. Wheeler, M.D., executive associate dean for academic affairs at UAMS, said 68 seniors were appointed to residencies in Arkansas, while there were 66 out-of-state residencies spread across 29 states.
According to the NRMP, this was the largest Match Day in history with 29,890 participants, which is 1,153 more than last year and 4,500 more than five years ago.
Nationally, there were 22,240 residencies to be filled through the NRMP match. Ninety-three percent of U.S. medical school seniors matched to a residency program this year, with 82 percent of those students matched to one of their top three choices. Those who did not match will have the opportunity to contact those programs with unfilled residency slots.