For four years, students at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix have worked toward "Match Day" – the day they learn where they will spend the next several years as resident-physicians, a major step in building a medical career.
Match results are released nationally at Match Day ceremonies coordinated to occur on the same date at the same time. Match Day is held each year on the third Friday in March (results are released at 1 p.m. Eastern time).
Surrounded by excited family members and friends, members of the Class of 2013 will receive traditional Match Day sealed envelopes containing letters showing where they will go for their residency training on March 15 at 10 a.m. The ceremony will end at approximately 11:30 a.m.
Most of the graduates are expected to remain in Arizona for their residencies. Residency programs vary in length from three years for general medicine/family practice specialties to eight years for the most specialized of surgeons. Most residencies will begin July 1.
This year marks the 32nd Match Day at the UA College of Medicine-Tucson. The event will be held in DuVal Auditorium, The University of Arizona Medical Center-University Campus, 1501 N. Campbell Ave., Tucson. The class includes 110 graduates: 64 women and 46 men; seven students are Hispanic and two are Native American.
The theme of this year's Match Day at the UA College of Medicine-Tucson is "Give Your Regards to Broadway," with a skit written and performed by the medical students. After the skit, students' names are called randomly to receive their match envelope. Students go onstage to accept their envelopes, announce their match, then reach into a container of match envelopes to pull one for the next student.
The last student called to the stage benefits from a Match Day tradition: He or she not only receives a match envelope but also a container of $1 bills deposited by each previous student as he or she received match envelopes.
This will be the third Match Day at the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix. Fifty students – the largest group to date – are participating: 22 women and 28 men, including one Hispanic student. The event will be held in the Health Sciences Education Building, 435 N. Fifth St., Phoenix.
Doctor of Medicine degrees will be conferred at the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix convocation ceremony on May 8, 3:30-5:30 p.m., at the Phoenix Convention Center, West Building, West Ballroom, third floor, 100 N. Third St., Phoenix, and at the UA College of Medicine-Tucson convocation ceremony on May 9, 6-8 p.m., in Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd., UA main campus, Tucson.
Match Day is the culmination of a complex year-long process that matches the nation's graduating medical students with residency programs.
During the first half of their senior year, medical students apply for positions at residency programs, then interview with program directors, faculty and residents.
In February, students submit their list of choices in order of preference – at the same time residency program directors submit their rank-ordered lists of preferred candidates – to the National Resident Matching Program, or NRMP, headquarters in Washington, D.C. A computer matches each student to the residency program that is highest on the student's list and that has offered a position to the applicant.
A growing number of couples are participating in the NRMP. For applicants who participate as a couple, the match process is more challenging. In addition to each deciding on a specialty, they must coordinate their match lists, taking into consideration the distance between residency programs as they create and rank pairs of choices. Communication and compromise are key. The NRMP guarantees that both applicants will match at the highest-ranked combination in which both applicants have been accepted.
Interesting 2013 UA medical graduates who will be available for interviews on Match Day include:
UA College of Medicine-Tucson:
Brian Vander Werf (Anesthesiology)
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks convinced Brian Vander Werf, 30, that he wanted nothing more than to serve in the U.S. military. He enlisted with the Army Reserve and spent a year in training to be a medic. Three years later, in 2005, he was deployed to Iraq. Out of that experience, came his decision to become a doctor.
"It was some of the most stressful and overwhelming and yet incredibly rewarding work I've ever done," Brian says of his year in Iraq. "At those times when you felt exhausted, you felt incredibly invigorated, because you knew you were doing something worth doing.
"In the course of my job, I was able to see what physicians do on a day-to-day basis. I realized that I felt most rewarded when I was there to help and intervene in the most critical moments of a person's life. Medicine was the only thing I could see myself doing. It was a life-changing experience. There's no other way to say it."
Vander Werf has chosen anesthesiology because it also offers the opportunity "to be there at the most critical moments of someone's life. It's extraordinarily hard work and challenging work, and I think it's extremely rewarding as well."
Vander Werf continues to serve in the Army Reserve as a first lieutenant, and he plans to continue serving during his residency and when he is a practicing anesthesiologist.
Born in Grand Rapids, Mich., Vander Werf grew up in Arizona and graduated from Corona del Sol High School in Tempe. He graduated from Arizona State University in 2008 with a degree in biochemistry. He and his wife, Christina, are expecting their first child.
Evelinda Gonzales (Family Medicine)
In her third year of medical school, Evelinda Gonzales, 28, realized that she loved working in pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology and adult and geriatric medicine. "And then I realized I want to be able to do all of that," she says, "so I will go into family medicine, and from there I hope to work with underserved populations."
Beginning in childhood and continuing through her years at Nogales High School, Gonzales knew she wanted to be a doctor. Her dad was her big inspiration. Dr. Carlos Gonzales was the first in his family to go to college. He graduated from the UA College of Medicine in 1981. He practiced medicine in rural Patagonia while Evelinda Gonzales was growing up, then joined the faculty of the UA department of family and community medicine.
"I grew up seeing everything that he worked for and everything that he did to try and improve the lives of those around him," Gonzales says. "I can't deny that that influenced my world view and my concept of seeing medicine as more of a calling than a job."
Gonzales initially wanted to go into a different field. "I tried to convince myself that I wanted to do something other than family medicine, but it didn't work," she says, with a smile.
Father and daughter also both graduated from Med-Start, the UA College of Medicine's five-week summer program for rural, minority or economically disadvantaged high-school juniors. "It was a fantastic experience," she says. "The classes were great, but I also got to meet other like-minded young people and made some really good friends."
Gonzales is one of only 10 medical students at the UA College of Medicine-Tucson who will graduate with a dual degree (six MD/MPH, two MD/MBA and two MD/Ph.D.). In addition to her medical degree, she also earned a master's degree in public health from the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.
"During my third year of medical school, I realized that while I was learning so much about caring for individuals' health, I could increase the impact I could have as a physician if I gained training on how to affect the health of communities as well."
Randi Heller (Psychiatry) and James Libbon (Internal Medicine/Geriatrics)
Randi Heller, 27, and James Libbon, 29, met the first day of medical school, became friends, fell in love, got engaged at the end of their second year of medical school, and got married last month.
Heller and Libbon are among the growing number of couples participating in the match process. Heller has applied to 17 residency programs, Libbon to 21, thereby improving the odds that they can do their residencies in the same city.
But regardless of where they go when they finish their four years with the UA College of Medicine, they will leave behind a joyous legacy: the singing group DOC-apella.
DOC-apella is a group of eight medical students and faculty who perform a capella, with no instruments other than their voices. They perform at medical school functions, at nursing homes and health centers – wherever they are invited.
Call it music therapy. Call it entertainment. They call it having fun.
Libbon directs DOC-apella. He's been singing since he learned to talk, started piano lessons when he was 8, joined his middle school choir, studied music theory in high school and sang in six choirs as an undergraduate at the UA.
"No one in the group is super musically trained," Libbon says. "A few play instruments. Some sing by ear. Most can't sight read too well. But they've come together from all sorts of different backgrounds, with minimal experience, and they make something beautiful from it."
Heller, who graduated from Northwestern University, is the manager and one of the voices of DOC-apella. She too grew up with music, played flute in her middle school band, joined her high-school choir, and sang in an a-capella group in college.
"Most medical students are fairly Type A," Heller says, and DOC-apella provides an opportunity to break out of the intense learning mode into something relaxing and enjoyable.
"The connections you form with people you share music with are just phenomenal. We (DOC-apella singers) have become so close it's like a little family. And when you sing for patients, or whoever you sing for, it really lights up their day."
In addition to their commitment to DOC-apella, Heller and Libbon both volunteered with the UA College of Medicine's Commitment to Underserved People program, a student-developed and student-directed program through which medical students gain experience providing care and health education to people who do not have a regular source of medical care. They also volunteered with MedSet, a program for homeless and otherwise at-risk teens. Libbon taught nutrition and exercise classes; Heller talked with the teens about sexuality.
Libbon, from Glendale, is choosing internal medicine, with the goal of specializing in geriatric care. "I probably wanted to go into geriatrics before I even knew it," he says. "My dad is an attorney, and I used to go with him to a senior center where he provided free service. The people there were always fun and fascinating to me." His residency choice came easily to him after taking an elective class in geriatrics, which gave him the opportunity to shadow physicians in nursing homes, and work with homeless seniors.
Heller, from Phoenix, traces her decision to become a psychiatrist to her undergraduate studies, which started in engineering. "About halfway through I realized no, I have to do something with people. So I switched over to biology and psychology. I've always been intrigued from a very young age about how people think, their behavior and their interactions. In psychiatry, you get the opportunity to focus on the whole person and not just the problem."
UA College of Medicine-Phoenix:
Alan and Amber Wang (Neurology and Pathology)
Alan and Amber Wang have a love story worth sharing. First, they fell in love with medicine – which landed them as medical students at the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix. Then friendship developed. Finally, Alan proposed to Amber on April Fool’s Day last year at a winery in Napa Valley, Calif., after they made the decision to couples match. He convinced friends to go along on the trip and take pictures when the time came. Alan proposed with a bottle of wine, with a special label that read, "Will you marry me?" – and the rest is history.
Married in January and planning to celebrate with their honeymoon in the Mediterranean just after graduation in May, Alan and Amber Wang will be matched to a hospital for their residency on Friday. Alan Wang, 27, has chosen neurology as his specialty and Amber Wang, 25, has chosen pathology. Specifically, she wants to specialize in forensic pathology, which has been her goal since the beginning. She spent time with the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office and fell in love with it, she says.
Being married to a fellow medical student means that they have a mutual understanding of the stress that students go through and the long and often unpredictable hours they put in. "Some people go home and they don't want to talk about it, but for us it's our life," Amber Wang says.
Although residency will take the couple out of Arizona to explore new cities, they said one day they would like to come back to the state to practice. Both attended Arizona high schools. Alan Wang went to Dobson High in Mesa, while Amber Wang attended Valley Christian High School in Chandler.
Stacy Arnold (Pathology)
Stacy Arnold, 36, always knew she wanted to become a doctor but had to take a detour in life.
Originally from New Jersey, she moved to Arizona 13 years ago with her family to make a new life here. She always was interested in medicine, she says, but had to make other plans when she became pregnant with her daughter during her senior year of high school. "I had to change paths to support her," she says.
Arnold says she got a second chance after getting accepted to the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix. She also remembers being incredibly nervous on her first day of classes and didn't know if she was going to make it through or "cut it" among her younger classmates.
She since has discovered the field of cytotechnology (the microscopic interpretation of cells that detect cancer and other abnormalities) and felt that it was fitting her interests.
On Match Day, most of Arnold’s family will be joining her to find out the exciting news, including her husband, son and daughter.
Scott Kaser (Anesthesiology)
Scott Kaser studied electrical engineering as an undergrad in college, but felt that it didn’t provide what he truly wanted. Kaser attended Canyon Del Oro High School in Tucson and had considered medical school when he was younger. After a little detour, he decided to come to the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix to pursue what had become his passion, medicine.
Kaser, 26, has chosen anesthesiology as his specialty, in part because of the mix of medical knowledge and procedural skill it provides. For him, Match Day will be a little bit more predictable, because Kaser already knows where he will be going – he has committed to the military as part of a loan repayment program. He will be in San Antonio for a coveted residency slot.
Still, Kaser says Match Day is important to him because of the support he will provide to his classmates by being there. His wife also will be joining him to cheer on Kaser's classmates as they find their matches.
As for his residency, Kaser says that working for the military won't be much different than a "typical" residency would be. He'll be wearing the uniform every day, but still dealing with the same challenges. Afterward, Scott will embark on four years of active duty service in the military.
About Residency Programs at the UA College of Medicine-Tucson:
The UA College of Medicine-Tucson offers 53 residency/fellowship programs, all accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, or ACGME, which establishes exacting national standards for approval and assessment of graduate medical education programs. The programs provide training in environments that are unique for their diverse patient populations and exceptional faculty-to-resident ratios, and they are crucial in attracting and training doctors who will remain in Arizona.
The UA College of Medicine Graduate Medical Education Program oversees 46 residency programs in all major specialties and subspecialties. Six-hundred-fifty residents and fellows are trained at the UA College of Medicine's primary teaching hospital, The University of Arizona Medical Center-University Campus, and 14 other major participating institutions in Tucson.
The University of Arizona College of Medicine at South Campus (formerly the University of Arizona/UPHK Graduate Medical Education Consortium) has six residency programs – emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, neurology, ophthalmology and psychiatry – and one fellowship in medical toxicology. All exceed the ACGME requirements in their specific disciplines. Approximately 100 residents are participating in the programs, which focus on providing health care in rural and underserved areas of Arizona to help reduce the Arizona physician shortage and improve access to health care throughout the state.
UA College of Medicine South Campus programs are based primarily at The University of Arizona Medical Center-South Campus with rotations throughout the state, including the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System and multiple rural and Indian Health Service locations.
The University of Arizona Medical Center-South Campus and The University of Arizona Medical Center-University Campus are part of The University of Arizona Health Network, Arizona's first academic medical network, which also includes The University of Arizona Medical Center-Diamond Children's. In partnership with the UA and UA College of Medicine, all combine to care for patients, conduct clinical research and educate medical students and train physicians.