2023 Matchday Brings Joyful Tears to UC Davis Medical Students
At exactly 9 a.m. Friday, more than 100 anxious UC Davis medical students stopped their classes and stared at their phones, computer screens and tablets.
These fourth-year students were about to view a web page that indicated where in the United States they would spend their next three to seven years of residency. Everyone will graduate soon, and residency is the last step on a long academic journey to becoming full-fledged doctors.
Once the students read their announcement, they cheered and then shared the news with the entire 2026 Medical School class, who connected to a Zoom call that was streamed live on Facebook.
Kayla Meadows, who checked into the home of her classmate and neighbor Angelica Martin, was at first speechless and then blurted out, “Oh my God!” very loudly. She then fanned herself with her left hand, as if producing more oxygen. On her laptop was the following message: “CONGRATULATIONS!!! …Institution Name: UC Davis Med Ctr-CA. Name of the program: Obstetrics-Gynecology.
Her fate was sealed. She remained at UC Davis Health for the next four years, which was her best bet. Martin will also stay for six years in a cardiothoracic surgery residency, also her first choice.
“We lived! We lived! We lived. We lived!” Martin said, sobbing and hugging Meadows.
It’s match day 2023. This is probably the most anxious and stressful day in medical school.
To get here, students endured two years of rigorous lectures, exams, and lab work, followed by two years of patient care experience. The fourth-year curriculum included a months-long process that was like a date: students apply for residency positions in academic medical center programs that offer a specialization of interest to them. Students then conduct interviews and rank the programs they would like to attend. The leaders of these programs also rank the students.
Programs and students then submit their selection to an organization called the National Resident Matching Program. The computer decides which student is where.
The students who celebrate match day the loudest tend to make the top list.
All 106 UC Davis students who took part in the match were included in the programs. They are among nearly 43,000 students qualifying across the country.
The scene at Martin’s apartment has been played out in dozens of other homes in and around Sacramento, where students have been surrounded by associates, friends, and other key supporters for at least the past four years.
Students celebrate each other’s achievements
Aggie’s blue and gold balloons decorated the room as class co-presidents Samya Faik and Ian Joseph celebrated with classmates, family and friends.
“This moment has been in the making for four years,” said Joseph, who worked at Harbor-UCLA in general surgery. “As special as today is, the hard work we’ve put in to get here is something to really celebrate.”
Faik jumped up and hugged her parents, who had traveled from Lafayette to the East Bay after learning that she qualified for UCLA’s internal medicine requirements.
“Our class is a magical group,” said Faik. “None of us would be here today to experience this special moment without the support we have received from each other.”
The closeness of the class of 2023 was on display as the group cheered wildly when their classmates shared their matches on Zoom.
“We are so proud of what we have all achieved as a class,” they both proudly declared.
“Sir doctor! “Come in, sir, doctor!”
The countdown to 9am began at the home of Manuel “Manny” Fierro’s sister-in-law. His wife Becky sat to his left, her hands folded in her lap, shaking with excitement. Fierro gripped his eldest daughter’s hand tightly as he reached for his iPad. In the background, his sister-in-law could be heard whispering, “I will cry,” just as Fierro opened the browser.
“We have UC Davis!” he exclaimed, shaking his fist in the air.
There were cheers and applause. The excitement in the room was palpable. Even two of the family’s Shih Tzu began running in circles around the living room, looking just as eager to be drawn into the hug.
Fierro, who will be studying anesthesiology, then picked up his phone, which he used to Facetime with his parents, who were watching from El Paso, Texas.
“Sir doctor! “Come in, sir, doctor!” (I’m going to be a doctor) he told his parents when his voice broke.
He thanked them for their support and wiped his eyes.
Fierro, who hails from a town of less than 200 people in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, was stunned when he explained how much this moment means to him and his family.
“My parents grew very little, and we grew up very poor before moving to El Paso.” Fierro continued, “I was the first one to go to college and graduate. Being here now brings back a lot of memories of everything we’ve been through and the sacrifices my parents made to make this happen.”
Most students will be trained in Primary Health Care
While the students learned about the results of their matches at home, a small group of deans of the Medical School watched the reaction and made short speeches on the other end of the Zoom call fixed in the Betty Irene Moore room. They watched from a large lecture hall where in-person Match Day celebrations were held before the pandemic forced the events online.
The vast majority of UC Davis students – 82% – will remain in California after graduation in May, and 23% of them will remain at UC Davis Health.
The majority of students, 58%, will go to primary health care programs. The large share is encouraging as UC Davis and other UC medical schools are ardently trying to produce more internal and family medicine physicians. Future primary care providers, who will be in residence for three years, are in short supply in rural areas, where they are desperately needed to care for California’s underprivileged population.
15 graduates will receive emergency medicine programs, and 13 will be in pediatrics. A total of nine are sent to anesthesia programs, which take four years and are among the highest paying specialties.
Students who do not want to stay in California have been selected to participate in programs in 13 states, including places where they will endure harsh winters (Minnesota) and scorching summers (Arizona).
After Zoom concluded, students walked and drove to the Vanderhoof Lawn on the UC Davis Health campus to celebrate with classmates and faculty supporters and dine on burritos provided by the Medical Education Authority.
The students found their way to the easels, which were adorned with two colorful posters—one depicting California and the other depicting the United States—and tiny, pinhead-sized photographs of each student.
Their assignment was to attach their picture pin to the place where they would receive their medical degree, which would then qualify them for certification in their chosen field.
California was well represented.
“We are very proud that so many alumni have stayed in California for residency,” said Sharad Jain, Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Professor of Internal Medicine. “We’re happy to help solve the state’s workforce challenges.”
Claudia Koons and Liam Connolly contributed to this report.
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