University of South Florida

USF med students find their residencies with Match Madness (Multimedia)

Click here for Match Day 2015 results.


There was a new vibe to this year’s Match Day.

After some 25 years of gathering at Skipper’s Smokehouse in north Tampa, the Morsani College of Medicine Class of 2015 opted to move their Match Day closer to downtown Tampa, finding a celebratory spot along the banks of the Hillsborough River and Tampa’s Riverwalk at Ulele, one of Tampa’s hottest dining destinations.


Larger space was needed to hold the largest matching class in the history of the USF medical school. Students, along with their friends and family, filled the green lawn just outside Ulele’s back door to learn where they would spend the next few years of their medical training as physician residents.

This year is also the first Match Day for the charter group of SELECT students, who spent the past two years in clinical rotations in Allentown, PA. Nine SELECT graduates participated in the Match in Allentown and seven returned to Tampa to open their envelopes at Ulele.

In total, 128 USF senior medical students participated Match Day 2015.

“This is a perfect venue for what is probably most important day of our careers,” said. Charles J. Lockwood, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine.

Frank and Carol Morsani.

Great friends and supporters of USF, Frank and Carol Morsani.

“I’d like to thank Mr. Gonzmart and his family for their generosity and to acknowledge Carol and Frank Morsani. There is no one more dedicated or committed to our school. This incredible experience will change your life. The next three to seven years will be exciting. It’s really where you become physicians. We do our best to lay the foundation, but the actual super structure, the building itself, that will allow you to be a doctor is going to be set over the next several years of your residency training.”

Joking about the obvious low-key theme of USF’s Match Day tradition, he added, “This is my first match day here. I’ve gone from wearing a suit, which I wanted all of you to do, to wearing your jerseys. We know who’s running the place.”

With that, Dr. Lockwood read the first match: Christopher DeClue, who matched with a specialty of diagnostic radiology at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

Match Day is the annual ritual when senior medical students across the country learn where they will spend their residencies, the next phase in their medical education, which can last from three to seven years depending upon the specialty pursued. They’ve spent the past six months or more interviewing with residency programs and then ranking their picks within the National Residency Match Program (NRMP). Match Day is when students find out which programs chose them.

For most students, this day is a defining moment: they find out where they will launch their careers. And for some, Match Day continues paths of determination.


For Kanchi Batra, the upbeat theme of Match Day is a perfect complement to what she experienced during her four years of medical school: continuous exposure to good people and positive experiences. Kanchi entered medical school with an attitude of optimism. As a member of the SELECT program’s charter class – a program founded for students looking for “ways to shape their own educational experiences” – she set out with high hopes. When she was admitted to the program, Kanchi was quoted as saying “I would like to become one of those players in the future who helps the country, the healthcare system, the community, and that one specific patient.”

Such a positive outlook is in her DNA. In her second year, she started Project Happiness, a task force aimed at increasing morale throughout USF Health.

“The idea was to bring together like-minded people and have them work as a team to bring more cheeriness on campus,” she said. “We wanted our peers to know it’s not all about tests and struggles. There is more to life than that.”

One of the group’s efforts included mounting a large poster board in a study area for students to write what they were most thankful for. Another event was a spring-time carnival day with face painting. Called Hump Day Happiness – because it was on Wednesdays – the event is probably the pinnacle project, Kanchi said, since it was so well received by students.

Four years later her expectations for medical school and for SELECT were met, and even exceeded.

“Being the first SELECT class was a life-changing experience,” Kanchi said. “And the administration was so receptive to feedback from us so they could make the program better. My experience was eye opening. The faculty up here (in Allentown) really wanted to make sure we were ready for residency and to work in teams, which is what medicine is all about now.”

Kanchi Batra, a charter student in the USF SELECT MD program, will be doing her residency in internal medicine at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center.

For Match Day, Kanchi looked forward to matching in an internal medicine program with hopes of a career in critical care. Her hard work and optimism were rewarded; she matched in internal medicine at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center.


Seeing gaps that prevent success drives Yasir Abunamous to improve things. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, he and a group of like-minded friends realized that relief organizations needed to recruit younger people into relief efforts.

“Campaigning to put younger people on the frontline of relief projects can inject raw optimism into the effort,” he said.

So with that in mind, he helped start Muslims Without Borders (now United Muslim Relief), a completely student-led – therefore young – relief organization.

And when he saw firsthand in Haiti that the relief efforts didn’t have a strong dental care component, he helped develop a branch of Muslims Without Borders that focuses on dental care, the first American Muslim dental relief group.

That same drive to improve brought Yasir to USF’s SELECT program, a leadership track whose students commit to “positively changing medicine” and to “transform health care and improve the health of communities.”

A perfect fit.

“They took a huge chance on us,” he said. “And we took a chance on a new program that would likely have challenges along the way. But they invested enormous resources in us and the program, and empowered us with a ton of new content and skills. They taught us to enhance our relationships with patients and challenged us to build something new and become true stakeholders. I wouldn’t trade it.”

It was during his two-year time in Lehigh Valley Health Network that his drive to improve presented itself again. Yasir helped design a pilot study to measure the number of homeless people within the LVHN patient population, a number that hadn’t been tracked before but could help better define access to health care and lead to cost savings because of reduced visits to the emergency room. He calls this “a critical data point to better allocate care and resources to this population.”

To improve, again.

Yasir Abunamous

SELECT student Yasir Abunamous reads his match in Allentown.

Yasir is hoping to match into a family medicine residency. And he did, at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, PA. 


In addition to having the desire to help care for people, Rachael King found another common thread among many of her classmates: they were from various places in the Caribbean, just like she was. Her family is from Jamaica.

Seeing an opportunity to blend a passion for medicine with a compassion for Caribbean populations, she formed the Caribbean Outreach through Medical Missions Association. The student-run organization takes annual  trips in association with Caribbean Community Association to provide much-needed health care to impoverished areas of the Caribbean.

“Our first goal was to educate fellow students about the people in need of quality medical care throughout the Caribbean,” Rachael said. “Each population is quite different and requires different approaches. There is a different exposure and a different world in each place. Some have a bigger focus on AIDs, others diabetes or hypertension. The key is to do something.”

The effort is one of several proud moments of outreach Rachael has experienced while attending medical school at USF.

Another was when she was on USF’s MD Program Admissions Committee to provide input about potential USF medical students. The process helped validate her own journey, she said.

“It’s really gratifying to help applicants become students,” she said. “I was in that seat once and someone saw something in me beyond scores and grades. I’ve succeeded at USF because the community here has nurtured me.  So I try to look for those same qualities in others who might also succeed.”

Her work at the national level as a member of the Governing Council of the American Medical Association’s Minority Affairs Section is another proud moment. In that role, she helped promote the Doctors Back to School program that encourages physicians to connect with local high schools in low-income areas to expose young students to opportunities for becoming physicians.

Locally, similar efforts are playing out at King’s Kids Academy for Health Sciences for elementary students and Tampa Bay Tech for high schoolers.

“A lot of times, it’s about knowing there’s an option,” Rachael said. “Getting young kids exposed to doctors says to them ‘hey, you can do this, too.’ It empowers kids to set goals and make them aim for success.”

Rachael King

Rachael King will be doing her internal medicine residency at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago.

So that she can continue to reach populations in need of quality primary care, Rachael vied for a residency slot in internal medicine. She found out March 20 that she’ll be moving to Chicago after graduation to start an internal medicine residency at the University of Illinois College of Medicine.


Always an active mentor and tutor to those in need of extra help, Jason Ricciuti took that initiative a step further when he started Tampa Bay Street Medicine (a local chapter of a national effort) to help provide basic medical care to the homeless in Tampa.

“A couple of us students started it as a service learning project,” he said. “We contacted other medical schools that are doing it, worked with our Student Affairs Office for approvals, went to a conference about it, recruited other USF students, got a grant, and started the chapter last April.”

Jason and fellow students worked with local organizations to help identify those in need and also connected with social service professionals and partnered with a group to gain access to a local community center that gave the patients access to some basic needs, such as laundry facilities.

The group of about 10 students hits the streets every other Friday and includes a mix of upperclassmen students who help guide first- and second-year students, as well as one to two supervising faculty physicians or physician assistants. And then they walk.

“We usually are around downtown Tampa and the Tampa Heights areas,” he said. “Over time, people have gotten to know us and expect us when we come around again or are waiting there so we can follow up on their conditions.”

Much of what the team sees are chronic problems, like cough and colds, skin problems, allergies problems, acid reflux. They dole out over-the-counter medications and wound care supplies in addition to health education. And the impact is good: typically, they see about 20 people with medical conditions, even more when you count the ongoing concerns.

Before Jason started medical school and the Tampa Bay Street Medicine, he spent two years with the AmeriCorps’ program City Year tutoring middle and high school students in Rhode Island and in Miami. During his first year of medical school, he also helped found Explorers Mentoring at USF.

“I feel like it’s an obligation to serve,” Jason said. “I certainly benefitted from other people’s support and it made a difference to me. It’s good to help each other and realize you’re not alone. You are where you are because of someone else. You can never forget that.”

Jason Ricciuti and Asha Balakrishnan

Jason Ricciuti and fiance Dr. Asha Balakrishnan, a current USF resident.

For Match Day, Jason chose a residency in obstetrics and gynecology. He matched in ob/gyn at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.


A sunny day greeted everyone at Ulele, the new Match Day venue. Ulele is named for the daughter of a legendary Native American chief and is located on the site of a former City of Tampa Water Works building, next to the new Water Works Park. The old brick mixed with the newness of neighboring buildings and the Tampa Riverwalk along the Hillsborough River give the event a traditional yet modern urban feel.

Following Dr. Lockwood’s announcement of the first match at noon, Kira Zwygart, MD, associate dean for student affairs for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, continued calling student names.

One by one, students came forward to accept an envelope, open it, and read to the crowd of classmates and family where they’re headed.

Students from the USF SELECT medical program at Match Day at Lehigh Valley Health Network.

USF SELECT students matching in Allentown, PA. Photo courtesy of LVHN.

Several couples opened their envelopes at the same time to learn where they would be going, together. One couple represented two medical schools: Katherine Diaz from Texas Tech joined her partner Robert Lorch from MCOM at Ulele to learn they will be doing their residencies at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

The student names were called in random order, a tradition at USF because each student called up drops a dollar bill in a box. The last student called to open his or her Match envelope wins the cash. This year that winning student was Danielle Kamis, who matched in psychiatry at Stanford University.

Danielle Kamis

Danielle Kamis collects her prize — the Match box filled with cash.

Then the crowd of newly matched students gathered together for what might be their last photo as a class. Everyone cheered in unison, thrilled to have matched.

From the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, 39 students (30%) are staying at USF; 52 (41%) are staying in Florida; and 64 students (50%) chose primary care as their specialty (internal medicine, family medicine, and pediatrics).

Click here for more details about the nationwide Match from the Association of American Medical Colleges. 










Video by Sandra Roa and photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications

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