Graduating medical students nationwide learn on Match Day where they will be spending their residencies

Tawana Evans reacted after being matched with the University of Louisville. (Photo by Selena Jabara, University of Kansas Medical Center)

by Greg Peters, University of Kansas Medical Center

The third Friday of March brings its own special version of match madness to medical schools across the county. While there are no buzzer beaters or Cinderella stories to be written, there is plenty of white-knuckle nervousness to go around as graduating medical students from coast to coast hold their breath as they learn on the same day where they will be matched for their residencies and in which specialties.

On Match Day at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City, Kansas, the envelopes are torn open amidst a chorus of shouts and cheers from friends and family gathered in Battenfeld Auditorium as the doctors-in-training learn one by one where their next stops will be on the path to becoming practicing physicians.

One hundred and nineteen students from the KU School of Medicine on the Kansas City, Kansas, campus matched, along with 79 from KU School of Medicine—Wichita and another 10 from KU School of Medicine—Salina.

“I’m excited for Match Day to see where everyone is going,” said Tawana Evans, a hometown student from Kansas City, Kansas, who graduated from Wyandotte High School. “I am proud of all my peers who have made it this far. And I am proud to be a Jayhawk.”

Students submit their preferences after interviewing with various residency programs, and the nonprofit National Resident Matching Program uses an algorithm to determine the pairings based on information submitted by both the applicants and the various residency programs. The residencies can last from three to seven years, depending on the specialty.

KU prides itself on being one of the nation’s leaders in producing primary care doctors, and this year was no exception with 45 percent of the students matching in this specialty. And many of the students will be staying nearby for their residencies. Of the 208 total students matched on the three campuses, 61 (Kansas City 27, Salina 2 and Wichita 32) will be staying in Kansas for their residencies.

Evans, who matched in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Louisville, said she is a Wyandotte Bulldog through and through.

She always knew she wanted to help people but she had never met any black doctors until her sophomore year at Wyandotte High School when she joined the Health Careers Pathways Summer program, which targets inner-city kids who are interested in science, math and engineering. Her first mentor was internist David Dembinski, M.D. Curtrina Strozier, M.D., and Reggie Fears, M.D., also took her under their wings and continue to consult with her to this day.

Evans and her husband, Dwayne Coates, were raising their 1-year-old daughter when she started classes at KU Medical Center. She credits her husband – the man who lifts her spirits when she’s discouraged – and her mother, Janice Evans, for being her support system as she earned both her Master’s in Public Health and Doctor of Medicine.

On Match Day, she was joined by her husband and mother along with her daughter, Kamaria Coates, who is now 6.

“I live one day at a time so Match Day is surreal,” Evans said. “It has taken a lot of hard work, discipline and prayer to get to this point.”

Allison Beito, who grew up in Bellevue, Washington, and graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, comes from a long line of doctors. Her father is a general surgeon and his father was an internist.

After receiving her undergraduate degree, Beito served for five years in the Coast Guard as a shipboard engineer and project manager, while finishing up her prerequisite coursework for medical school and preparing for the MCAT. She remembers many times while at sea that she had to wait until the middle of the night or over the weekend to make a dodgy internet connection so she could turn in her online assignments.

For Beito, medical school at KU was just another chapter in a life filled with many memorable experiences on her way to an internship in psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic.

“I will never forget the joy of delivering my first baby,” she said. “I’ll never forget sitting with a patient while he died. I’ll never forget the first time a patient hugged me. And I’ll never forget the Sunday on surgery when a patient came in with a terrible gunshot wound, and while we were in surgery I looked down at the beating heart and lungs gently rising and falling and thinking to myself ‘how beautiful – what an incredible thing the human body is.'”

When David De La Cruz stepped onto the stage to learn his fate, his wife, Viki, and their children Elijah, Arya and Dominic were with him to celebrate learning he had matched in emergency medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Med school has really made me grateful for the tremendous opportunity I’ve been given,” said the Peoria, Illinois, native who has wanted to become a doctor since he was 11 years old and his older brother was in medical school. “As I look back, I’ve come to realize how much I owe pieces of my success to other people: my wife, my parents, my teachers and classmates, and countless patients.”

In Wichita, Nikki and Ross Miller were supported by a host of family members when they found out they had been matched to The University of Kansas Health System. Nikki matched in internal medicine and Ross in emergency medicine.

The couple met in a biology class at KU in 2010, and their goals of becoming physicians were cemented on a medical mission trip to Costa Rica and Panama where they spent every day setting up clinics to treat underserved individuals, many of whom had never seen a doctor.

They also share an interest in medicine through family ties. Nikki, who excelled in science and math and loved caring for people, would tag along with her mother while she was taking care of her great-grandmother.

Ross became interested in medicine by observing the rheumatologists who treated his grandfather, who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis throughout his life.

“We’ve been building up to this for four years, so it’s a feeling of excitement and relief,” Nikki said. “We are proud of the programs we’ve matched with and are excited for the adventure to come.”

Yet another married couple in the School of Medicine matched together, this time on the Salina campus. Catie and Vince Adams, who met at a house party during their undergraduate years and married seven years later, will be heading to Marshall University. Catie matched in internal medicine and Vince in general surgery.

“It felt amazing finding out where we matched,” Catie said. “It’s taken a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get to this point. It will be nice to plan the next phase of our lives and training.”

The Adamses have each overcome their own share of adversity to make it to Match Day. Vince, whose father is a dermatologist, failed one of his modules during his second year when he was both sick and injured, but he says it was an enlightening experience.

Catie’s father became deathly ill during her third year, and she spent a lot of time commuting to Texas to be at his bedside before he died. It was difficult making up for missed time on her rotation while still grieving the sudden loss of her father.

“I believe that medical school changes you in many ways,” Catie said. “You absolutely have to mature and get your priorities in line.”

Vince added, “I’m certainly more mature and responsible than I was when I started medical school. At this point I much more closely resemble the person I would want to be my own physician than I did when I started.”

For at least one candidate, Match Day was a little less intense. Taylor Batson, from Girard, Kansas, found out in December that she matched in pediatrics at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, and will continue to serve in the Navy after her residency.

“KU has given me so many opportunities to work in a variety of settings outside of my comfort zone,” she said. “I have practiced in rural and inner-city hospitals, small pop-up clinics in Panama, and a district hospital in South Africa all thanks to KU. An incredible and diverse group of doctors has mentored me, inspired me and has given me a solid foundation from which to start.”

Greg Peters is the senior communications coordinator for the University of Kansas Medical Center.

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