For future physicians, a Match Day like no other

Perfect match: New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine graduate Kayla Arthur is ready to take her next steps.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

An emotional rite of passage for future physicians has made a high-tech, if slightly more impersonal, Age of Coronavirus pivot.

Match Day is an annual event during which graduating medical students across the nation open personalized letters from the National Resident Matching Program, revealing the next steps of their long educational journeys: their residencies, where they will spend years finishing off their medical educations.

Usually a joyous tearjerker featuring packed college centers, grinning grads and bursting-with-pride families, Match Day 2020 – like the rest of human society – has been transformed by COVID-19, which has summarily outlawed things like packed college centers.

In response, universities across the nation took their Match Day events online – including Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine and the New York Institute of Technology’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, which both held virtual Match Day events March 20.

Graduates of New York Tech’s osteopathic school participated in a livestream event to learn their computerized-algorithm-generated matches, then poured onto social media to cheer their classmates and share their own at-home celebrations.

New York Tech brass – including Jerry Balentine, vice president for health sciences and medical affairs and College of Osteopathic Medicine dean, and representatives of the COM facility on the Arkansas State University campus – also participated in the livestream, with Balentine noting how the pandemic magnifies the need for new healthcare professionals.

“What better time to take this monumental step forward than now, when we are most needed?” the dean asked students. “What an exciting day and important milestone for all of you.

“Don’t let the distance or virtual nature take away anything from your achievement.”

Jerry Balentine: Answering the call.

The virtual event was an especially big deal for the NYITCOM-Arkansas community, which marked its first Match Day since the schools joined forces in 2016.

“It takes a special group of students to commit to being part of the inaugural class of a new medical school,” noted Shane Speights, site dean at NYITCOM-Arkansas. “These students trusted us to provide them with a topnotch medical education, and they dedicated themselves to working incredibly hard to make themselves quality candidates for residencies.”

At SBU, 116 Renaissance School fourth-years learned their fates – including placements across 18 states and the District of Columbia – in the medical school’s first-ever “Zoom party,” referring to the online videoconferencing platform.

Kenneth Kaushansky, Renaissance School dean and SBU’s senior vice president of health sciences, welcomed graduates to “a very unusual Match Day,” which featured a high number of placements in critical specialties like internal medicine and emergency medicine.

“You are an incredibly bright, energetic and accomplished group who will soon be called ‘doctor,’” said Kaushansky, who also reminded graduates that becoming a physician “is not just a job, but a calling.”

The Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell held a more low-key Match Day, canceling a planned event at Hofstra University’s DeMatteis Family Atrium but nonetheless celebrating an uber-successful Class of 2020, with 100 percent of the 99 graduating students matched – including 30 who landed coveted residencies across the Northwell Health system.