When it’s all over, one thing is clear: Match Day for medical students has more authentic drama, excitement, and emotion than any episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
Nervous may not come close to describing how one hundred and forty soon-to-be physicians feel as they await the answer to the question: what’s next?
Their fates are sealed inside plain, white envelopes tucked in a box at the front of a standing-room-only auditorium at the UW’s School of Medicine and Public Health. A version of what’s about to happen there — at noon on the third Thursday of March each year — is taking place at medical schools all over the country. Students submitted their preferences for residency programs weeks ago; today they learn if their assignments match their dreams.
“Let’s get started,” says Patrick McBride MD’80, associate dean for students, as he begins calling out names. Each student takes his or her envelope, puts $1 in a jar (with proceeds going to the poor soul whose name is called last), and stands before a microphone at the front of the room.
Some take a deep breath before revealing the destination, making the moment last. For many, emotion takes over, and everyone in the room is swept along for the ride with their wide smiles and joyful tears. Pushpins stuck into a U.S. map show where the students are headed, with about 20 percent staying at the UW.
Babies and wriggling toddlers — too young to remember this momentous day — wait as their moms or dads step up to the microphone. Some students walk to the front with their significant others, an acknowledgment of the sacrifices made. One young man hands the envelope to his wife to open, saying, “She worked harder to get through medical school than I did.” Some couples are matched with the same residency program, having met and fallen in love on their way to becoming doctors. Many wait to open the envelope until a partner’s name is called, then huddle to take in the news together before sharing it with the room.
When it’s all over, one thing is clear: Match Day has more authentic drama, excitement, and emotion than any episode of Grey’s Anatomy. And for this cast of new doctors, their story is just beginning.
What’s your favorite UW tradition? Tell On Wisconsin about it at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll find out if it’s just a fond memory — or if it’s still part of campus life today.
Published in the Spring 2011 issue