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Shouts, Hugs, and Tears: Military Medical Students Celebrate Match Day

A sign that says "Congratulations Class of 2020!"
By Sharon Holland

Air Force 2nd Lt. Jeremy Mears’ family was already house-hunting.  Fingers crossed, they were searching for homes in Dayton, Ohio, near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where Mears was hoping to go for a medical residency program in Emergency Medicine.  They had researched neighborhoods and schools.  All they needed was a decision.

Joel and Stephanie Schirdling had their sights set on Las Vegas. Joel, an Army 2nd lieutenant, and Stephanie, an Air Force 2nd lieutenant, were both waiting for word of acceptance to residency programs at Nellis Air Force Base. Joel, who is transferring to the Air Force, applied for Emergency Medicine and Stephanie ranked Family Medicine as her top choice.

A man and woman smiling
All smiles after discovering they got their first choices for residency training, Army 2nd Lt. Joel Schirdling
and Air Force 2nd Lt. Stephanie Schirdling proudly display their Match Day results, which send the
pair to Nellis Air Force, Nevada, this summer.  (Photo by Sharon Holland)
As the clock ticked towards noon, more than 75 fourth-year medical students at USU eagerly waited for their 2019 Match Day results. Others awaited results at clerkship sites around the country.

Match Day is celebrated by most U.S. medical students in March, with thousands around the country learning simultaneously where they will be going for their postgraduate medical training.  However, USU and Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program students don’t receive their results until the second week of December.  Military graduate medical education assignments are determined at the end of November during the Joint Services Graduate Medical Education Selection Board, where program directors from throughout the Military Health System convene to choose which students go where for their specialty training assignments.

This is only the second year for USU’s Match Day celebration.  In the past, students received emails at midnight notifying them of their selections.  Medical school leaders worked with Service medical leadership to change it so that USU students could celebrate their achievements together in a fun, festive atmosphere in keeping with their civilian counterparts.

At the stroke of 12:00 p.m., students ripped open their envelopes, erupting in screams, hugs, and tears. The Mears family, who were all present for the announcement, celebrated after learning they could finalize their house-hunting efforts in Dayton; Jeremy got his first choice of specialty and location. The Schirdlings celebrated their first-choice selections with a hug and a kiss, while happy chaos ensued all around them.

While not everyone got their preferred training assignments, Williams said 88% of USU students  received their first choices of specialty.  Twenty-seven students will pursue a transitional year training program, followed by 19 students each in emergency medicine, family medicine, and internal medicine.  Fifteen students will enroll in either psychiatry or a combined psychiatry/medicine program, 11 in general surgery, 10 each in anesthesia and radiology, seven each in orthopaedics and pediatrics, five in obstetrics/gynecology, four each in urology and otolaryngology, two each in neurosurgery, ophthalmology and pathology, and one each in dermatology, neurology, and physical medicine and rehabilitation.  Additionally, five students will spend only their first postgraduate training year in medicine, and one in surgery for a year. 

"This is a defining moment for our students. They've spent the last four years working very hard to get to this next phase of their careers. The extraordinarily high rate of success in the Residency Match for our students reflects not only their excellence, but also the incredible efforts and support of the entire USU faculty and staff,” said Brian V. Reamy, M.D., senior associate dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs in USU’s School of Medicine.  “We are all very proud of their hard work and accomplishments, and excited to see them all move forward into their residency training and beyond.”

A family reads a paper
Air Force 2nd Lt. Jeremy Mears and his family read the results of his Match Day selection.  
Mears will be entering his first choice -- emergency medicine at Wright-Patterson 
Air Force Base, Ohio -- for his graduate medical education training. 
(Photo by Kyle Skerbe)