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Match Day: Stanford medical students celebrate their accomplishments amid pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Stanford medical students learn where they "matched" for residency in a virtual Match Day.

In times of crisis, it's comforting to know there are some things you can always count on. For medical students across the United States, one constant is Match Day, a medical school milestone that happens every year on the third Friday in March.

On this day, graduating medical students around the country find out where they "matched" for their residency, the next stage of training. Traditionally, they have learned the news with each other and loved ones at celebrations at their medical schools; At 9 a.m. Pacific, all students rip open their envelopes to pull out a single, folded sheet of paper that reveals where they'll go for residency.

This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, medical students around the country will receive their match results via email at 9 a.m. Pacific, from the National Residency Matching Program, said Mijiza Sanchez-Guzman, EdD, associate dean for medical student affairs.

"Match Day is a huge source of pride for us," Sanchez-Guzman said. "I'm happy for our students where ever they end up, knowing that any of our peer institutions would be lucky to have them."

Although this year's Match Day will be different, the alternate format doesn't diminish the significance of this turning point in the students' lives.

"As the first generation in my family to go to college and medical school, this is a big milestone for me and my family," said Rosa Yu, who matched in internal medicine.

"I will be able to call myself the first doctor in my family," said Paloma Marin-Nevarez. "It also means that I get to join my specialty of choice and become an emergency medicine physician. In these difficult times of uncertainty and fear, I am so honored to get to join this profession in just a few months."

Yu said that when Match Day festivities were canceled, she was disappointed because her parents had looked forward to traveling from New York to join her for "the big day."

However, she said, "As events have evolved, I know that this was the right decision."

Students will celebrate their news in their own ways. Yu plans to spend her morning outside with a cup of coffee, ready to call her parents as soon as she receives her match via email. 

Marin-Nevarez said she'll make a pilgrimage to a bench at the end of Stanford's Discovery Walk, where she sat five years ago after her medical school interview. At the time, she mistakenly thought her performance was a "disaster."

After her moment of reflection, Marin-Nevarez said, she'll be ready to make her announcement to the world. "It may be a quiet Match Day," she said, "but best believe this millennial is ready to share on social media."

Top photo by AngieYeoh/Shutterstock

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