Stanford medical students celebrate Match Day virtually

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Holly Elser, who matched in neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, with her husband, Matt Elser, and their dogs, Penny, left, and Pinto. (Photo courtesy of Holly Elser)

Shortly before 9 a.m. Friday, March 19, STEVEN LOSORELLI, who’s in his final year of medical school at Stanford, blared Daft Punk, sat down at his computer and waited for the email that would reveal where he would pursue his childhood dream of becoming an ear surgeon.

“Typically, there is a big ceremony,” said Losorelli, referring to Match Day, when medical students nationwide open envelopes at the same moment — 9 a.m. Pacific time — at their schools to learn where they’ve “matched,” or been accepted, for residencies.

This year, most of the 99 Stanford medical students who matched opened emails, rather than envelopes, at home because of the pandemic. Many joined faculty and staff on Zoom at 8:30 a.m. for a virtual celebration organized by the School of Medicine’s Office of Student Affairs.

“This is probably the happiest day of my academic year, getting to celebrate your accomplishments,” LLOYD MINOR, dean of the School of Medicine, told the students.

The students grinned and looked excited. Some parents hovered in the background. A few held babies. A kitten sat in one student’s lap. A dog yapped.

HOLLY ELSER, who matched in neurology, said she’d been on pins and needles, waiting to find out where she and her husband would be moving next year.

“It could have been Philadelphia or New York, LA or Chicago,” she said. When she clicked open the Match Day email from the National Residency Matching Program, she discovered she’d been accepted to her first choice, the University of Pennsylvania. She was thrilled.

“I was sitting on the couch with my husband and two dogs,” she said. “Right before opening, I was nervous but excited. Regardless of what happened, I was just so excited to know for sure and to be able to plan for the next few months. I was just so happy with the results. So delighted.”

The matching process is a tradition that dates back to the 1950s, with residency assignments determined by a nonprofit organization, the National Resident Matching Program. The organization uses a computer algorithm to align the preferences of the applicants with those of the residency programs. Traditionally, students begin applying for residencies in the summer before their final year of medical school, then travel nationwide in the fall for interviews. This year, due to the pandemic, most of those interviews were conducted virtually.

Read more on the Stanford Medicine news site.