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A matchless result on Match Day for the DMS Class of 2000

How much can a plain #10 envelope hold? Three to seven years of your life, if you were a fourth-year medical student in Auditorium G at DHMC on March 16—Match Day.

Sealed in the envelopes in question were the names of the residency programs where the students would go for the next stage of their training. They had applied back in the fall to programs in the specialty of their choice and gone to interviews across the country. Then in February, they'd submitted to the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) rank-ordered lists of their choices. After that, the students had to wait until Match Day to learn where they would spend the next phase of their careers—their futures quite literally out of their hands until they got those envelopes.

Tension: So the tension was understandable. Imagine getting a report card, a college admission letter, a housing assignment, and a promotion all in one envelope. The stress manifested itself in the ways classmates greeted each other as they trickled into the room a little before noon. Hugs rather than handshakes were the order of the day. And lots of voluble chatter. Everyone sought out someone with whom to commiserate. Some took the time to search out a lucky seat, but then couldn't sit still in it.

As 12:00 EST neared, the hour when the NRMP envelopes are distributed nationwide, the auditorium was brimming with students and interested observers. The tension seemed to be just barely contained, as if it were under pressure. A note on the blackboard said "Party Tonight." But clearly the celebrating was on hold until after those envelopes were handed out.

Walter Chang, a graduating senior, described the Match as an extremely anxious process. He said he "got really nervous" as he composed his rank-ordered list, but found it equally "scary" once the list was out of his hands and in the clutches of the NRMP computer.

Crescendo: The voices in the room were rising to a crescendo of speculation, worry, and anticipation, when Assistant Dean Susan Harper, M.D., and Dean John Baldwin, M.D., silenced the crowd by indicating they were almost ready to distribute the envelopes. But first, each wanted to say a few words.

Harper commended the students for all of the hard work they'd invested to reach this point. She said they had an "incredible opportunity ahead" and announced that 90% of the class would be going to one of their top three choices. And a "resounding" 73% had matched at their first-choice program. Suddenly, much of the nervous energy tipped over into excitement as the students realized that their odds were extremely good of having made a desirable match.

Baldwin commented that he was "excited for each of you individually, as a group, and for the School. I hope you remember the importance of Dartmouth," he added, "as your family."

He then called out the name on the first envelope in his hand. The envelopes had been randomized so no one knew how long the wait would be. But to compensate the last one called, each student dropped a dollar in a basket on the way to the front; the accumulated prize would go to the unlucky/lucky last person. It was a DMS Match Day ritual established as one way of mitigating the stress.

Support: One by one, the students walked down the stairs to put a dollar in the basket and receive their envelope. The crowd cheered and applauded as each classmate shook hands with one of the deans. The support from 50-some other people in the same situation clearly helped, and the students seemed genuinely buoyed by it as they strode to the front of the room.

After finally getting the envelope in hand, however, almost all the students waited a minute more before opening it, walking back to their seats and hollowing out a private space first. Those who were there with a spouse, or someone else whose life would also be affected by the envelope's revelation, huddled together to take a look at their joint future. Then they turned back to their classmates to share the news and celebrate.

But a few couldn't hold back their excitement. Travis Matheney, president of the Student Government, gave out a robust "Yee-hah" upon learning that he had matched with Harvard's orthopedic surgery program.

Chang was pleased to learn that he was one of the great majority who got their first choice; he'll be going into plastic surgery at DHMC. "It turned out great," he said with a smile of relief.

Sixty students were expected to graduate in June. Of those, 52 participated in the Match; in addition, one student who graduated in December participated. The 73% who received their top choice was well above the national average of 62%; 13% received their second choice and 4% their third choice. The most popular specialties were internal medicine, surgery, and pediatrics. Four students entered military programs (which are handled outside the Match), three are deferring residency, and one accepted a non-NRMP position. (All the graduates who are doing residencies next year are listed on this page.)

Dispersing: The '00s will be dispersing to 18 states, with the largest numbers heading for Massachusetts (15), New York (8), and California (5).

But they were all together for Match Day. As the ceremony continued, those who already had their envelopes stayed and cheered for those still waiting. The last few survivors began voicing the hope that theirs would be the final name called so they'd get the basket of money. The number of unenlightened dwindled until, finally, Thomas Golembeski got the consolation prize—together with the news that he'd be doing internal medicine at Harvard's Mount Auburn Hospital.

It was over. The students all knew where they'd be spending the next few years of their life. They milled about and shared their news. Rounds of "Congratulations," "Awesome," and "Go, girl" filled the room. The auditorium remained almost full for a time, as everyone savored the release of the morning's tension. Then the students slowly filtered out of the room, heading for their futures and, presumably, that party.

Typically, Match Day's anticipatory tension soon dissolves into celebratory relief. Top, Assistant Dean Susan Harper (left) and Dean John Baldwin (right) hand Mark Brauning the envelope telling him he matched in internal medicine at Harvard's Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center. Above, Derek Woodrum (center) and Robyn Byer (left) share the news that they're headed, respectively, for surgery at the University of Michigan and pediatrics at Harvard. And at right, Maya Mitchell (facing the camera) and Kaushal Shah celebrate their matches in internal medicine at UC Davis and emergency medicine at Beth Israel-Deaconess.

All photos: Mark Austin-Washburn

Incoming: The program directors at DHMC were also sweating out the Match, from the other side. Though it was a less personal process for them, they still felt some stress. Judy Csatari, who manages the Match for the Department of Medicine, likened her feelings to a heart palpitation. For her, the big moment came a couple of days before the students', when she found out whether the internal medicine residency program had attracted enough students to fill all of its positions. It did, and Csatari was "thrilled to have filled." (All the incoming residents, and the medical schools they graduated from, are listed in the box on page 5.)

In fact, 30 of the 32 programs at DHMC filled all their spots. And according to H. Worth Parker, M.D., director of graduate medical education, the other two managed to find excellent candidates outside the Match. Parker reported that the "quality of candidates remains high. They are from every region of the U.S. and several foreign nations. . . . Overall we are delighted with the March 2000 Match."

Jonathan Weisberg

If you would like to offer any feedback about this article, we would welcome getting your comments at DartMed@Dartmouth.edu.

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