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Vital Signs

DMS graduates have a Match Day plea: 'The envelope, please!'

By Ann Patterson

It was just before noon on Thursday, March 16, as anxious DMS seniors began filing into DHMC's Auditorium E. The occasion was Match Day—when medical students all across the country receive their residency assignments.

Flipping: "I was actually pretty calm until about three hours ago, then my stomach started flipping around in circles," said Chad Bingham, who'd brought along his wife, Misty, and their two young children. "I'm hoping to match with DHMC in general surgery," he added.

The tension and anticipation were palpable as the fourth-years buzzed about the room, snapping pictures and guessing what news the white envelopes at the front of the room might hold. "This is destiny in the making!" senior Jean-Paul Dedam exclaimed.

For over 50 years, Match Day has been a pivotal point in the lives of doctors-to-be. This year, 15,008 U.S. medical school seniors participated in the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). An additional 11,000 or so applicants—including students at non-U.S. schools and osteopathic schools—also take part in the NRMP. U.S. seniors with military scholarships, however, get their residency assignments outside the NRMP.

Using a computer algorithm, the NRMP matches the preferences of applicants with those of residency program directors to fill openings at teaching hospitals throughout the nation. Just before Match Day, applicants learn if (but not where) they matched. At that point, applicants who didn't match take part in what is called "the scramble," as they or their advisors contact programs that still have open positions. On Match Day, the destinies of thousands of future doctors are revealed—simultaneously throughout the nation.

"It's exciting, but I'm not as nervous yet as I think I will be once they start handing out envelopes," said Kathryn Chatfield, whose cheering section included a proud aunt and uncle who had driven up from Boston for the event and a friend who'd surprised her by showing up.

Quieting the din with some words of encouragement, Dr. Susan Harper, assistant dean for medical education, noted, "This is the first time in the 10 years that I've been involved in the DMS Match that every graduating student who participated successfully matched."

Spectacular: And Dr. Stephen Spielberg, DMS's dean, added, "I got a quick peek through the list and it's spectacular—it's a credit to absolutely each and every one of you."

Holding high a plastic tumbler filled with sparkling cider, class marshal Matthew Baird offered a toast to his classmates, likening Match Day excitement to being a kid again. "I want to see lots of running and yelling and crying and hugging each other and acting like fools," he said, drawing whoops and laughter from his classmates. "We deserve it. We worked really hard. We pulled each other along, we pushed each other ahead, and we're all here—we didn't leave anybody behind."

Then Spielberg and Harper got down to business, calling the seniors up in random order. Each name evoked cheers from onlookers. Some students tore into their envelope in public and announced its contents to the sea of classmates. "I'm going to CHoP!" yelled Chatfield upon learning she'd matched at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Others ducked out of sight to read their news in private and came back beaming.

By 12:30, the ceremony was over. The most popular specialty at DMS (and nationally, too) was internal medicine, while Massachusetts was the most popular destination. Of the 48 DMS students in the NRMP, six will remain at Dartmouth for residency, including Chad Bingham, who was thrilled to get his first choice.

DHMC will also welcome 108 other new residents from all over the country and the world. And the New Hampshire- Dartmouth and Maine-Dartmouth Family Practice Programs will welcome 18 new residents.

Group hugs: As the anxious pre-Match chatter gave way to highfives and group hugs, Dean Spielberg observed that "this is an extraordinary class. . . . I think the results of the Match just validate it. They're going into great programs, and they're going to be great docs."

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