Pirates invade USF Match Day 2016, deliver good news to USF medical students heading to residencies
Gasparilla’s Ye Mystic Krewe pirates and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor cheer on senior medical students as they learned where they will conduct their medical residencies.
Miss the UStream Live? Watch the recording here.
Eye patches, beads and the occasional ‘Arrgh!’ filled the backyard of local restaurant Ulele March 18 as the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Class of 2016 found out where they will spend their residencies, the next phase in their medical education. The theme was played out by members of the local Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla – Gaspar’s Grenadiers – a Tampa civic group based on the City’s famed legend surrounding noted pirate Jose Gaspar and a co-sponsor of the City’s annual Gasparilla invasion and parade.
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.
As the group waited for noon to strike – marking the time when the national match begins – a large birthday cake was presented to Richard Gonzmart, owner of the Ulele and a long-time supporter of USF. Bryan Bognar, MD, MPH, vice dean for the MCOM Office of Educational Affairs, thanked Mr. Gonzmart for his ongoing support and helped lead the crowd of hundreds in singing Happy Birthday.
In thanking everyone, he shared how his appreciation for USF was cemented.
“I’m so thankful to the USF College of Medicine,” Gonzmart said. “My Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1992 at the Cleveland Clinic. We found out that the best surgeon in the country happened to be at USF. Thank you and congratulations.”
Amid the pirate themed fun was concern for the nation’s shortage of residency positions. Pointing to local and national initiatives to grow graduate medical education opportunities and the impending physician shortage for the growing Baby Boomer population, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor spoke to the group of soon-to-be residents.
“I’ve filed a bill this week that would lift caps on the numbers of residents and create more physician training slots in Florida,” Rep. Castor said. “You have gone to medical school at one the premier health training centers in Florida… Even if you do not match in Florida, we need you to return here to practice medicine to help keep our state healthy and well.”
Taking the stage next was Charles J. Lockwood, MD, MHCM, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine.
“So, can you believe that this is the same person who wanted to wear a suit and tie last year?” he asked with a laugh.
At noon, the first envelope was presented, going to Dusty Nicolay, who matched in an anesthesiology residency at Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA.
This year is also the second Match Day for the SELECT students, who spent the past two years in clinical rotations in Allentown, PA – for this Class of 2016, 36 SELECT graduates participated in Match Day in Allentown and six returned to Tampa to open their envelopes at Ulele.
The entire Class of 2016 is the largest group to match in the history of the USF medical school – 172 students participated in the match this year. An oversized map on the Ulele grounds helps illustrate the class size as it was filled by students placing pre-cut red x’s to mark their residency destinations. And although the lawn of Ulele was full of students and their friends and family, anyone who couldn’t make it to the venue could catch all the action via the live UStream, giving access across the world as each student learned where they would spend the next few years of their medical training as physician residents.
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.
Like most senior medical students matching as couples, Matt Widner and Julianna Naccarato looked at potential residency programs that offered a good program for him (orthopaedics) and a good program for her (family medicine).
But this couple demanded a third criteria in their search: the destination had to be close to a children’s hospital with pediatric heart specialists for their son Luca.
Now 11 months old, Luca was born with a rare congenital heart condition. Constant monitoring and occasional rushes to emergency rooms are part of life for Luca and his family.
“Really, the biggest issue for us in our match is this guy here,” said Julianna, sitting next to wide-eyed, smiling Luca.
Matt and Julianna met as undergraduates. Each worked in the pediatrics unit at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, FL. Both were accepted into USF’s medical school, but entered in different years. This timetable would mean they wouldn’t graduate the same year, something that would negate their option to match as a couple. So Julianna took a year off from medical school to earn a master’s degree in public health from USF. That deferral put both in the same graduating class and, thus, they could match as a couple.
That’s the kind of planners they are. But planning ahead couldn’t prepare them for the rough third year of medical school they faced together. In addition to having a baby with a rare congenital heart condition, Matt’s father was diagnosed with an aggressive form of kidney cancer and passed away within months of Luca’s birth.
“We’ve learned so much but mostly that there’s a lot you can plan for in life but a lot you can’t plan for – you just have to roll with it,” Matt said.
So the planning and rolling with life continued on Match Day when their trifecta match came through. They are heading to the Hershey Medical Center at Penn State in Hershey, PA, to noted orthopaedics and family medicine programs for Matt and Julianna, and to a children’s hospital with pediatric heart specialists for Luca.
Alison Cullinane was well on her way into a marketing career with her MBA when a nagging thought grew louder: she liked her job but it didn’t give her a strong sense of satisfaction. There had to be more, she thought.
“I enjoyed the work,” she said. “But something felt like it was missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it.”
Alison said it was when a friend came right out and told her she should be a doctor that it became perfectly clear.
“As soon as she said it, I knew she was right,” Alison said. “When I told my husband, he was happy, but said he wasn’t surprised, that he’d known all along I would come to that conclusion. Our biggest concern was that we would still have a family.”
And so they did. On the first day of medical school, Alison was 10 weeks pregnant. Across her first year of medical school, she found the environment nurturing and supportive – especially when she had doctor-ordered bed rest late in her pregnancy.
Alison said she was interested in pediatrics from the very start of medical school.
“Having had a baby, I wavered a little and thought about obstetrics,” Alison said. “But I just loved pediatrics. Even though it is difficult to see very sick children, I was so fulfilled with my day’s work and I couldn’t wait to go back the next day. I know pediatrics will allow me to have an impact on kids’ futures.”
Alison will be doing a residency in pediatrics. Now, with two children, the family of four will be staying in Tampa – Alison matched with the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.
Armed with a bachelor’s degree in cultural studies and a minor in chemistry, Kristian Johnson von Rickenbach set out to go to medical school – just not right away.
“I wanted to take time off, to grow up a bit and understand more about medical careers,” Johnson said. “I knew in general what medicine was about, but I wanted to see another side of it. I wanted to look at research.”
Kristian got a job at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and she spent three years learning about cancer research and clinical trials. Her next step was to test herself to see if she could handle the rigors of a medical school curriculum. Kristian found USF MCOM’s master’s degree program in medical sciences, which offered her a pre-professional program where she sat alongside medical students for several courses and learned, in essence, content of the first-year of medical school.
At the end of the one-year program, she felt confident she could do well in medical school, and should earned a master’s degree, to boot.
“I figured that, after one year, I would know if I was on the right path,” Johnson said. “I found out I was definitely going in the right direction.”
Kristian entered MCOM as part of the SELECT program, a leadership track that prepares students to be physician leaders who can take active roles in changes to our health care system.
“SELECT had everything I believed medicine should have, plus its second half in Allentown is just 55 minutes away from where I grew up,” she said. “It all seemed right for me from the start.”
For her match, Kristian is aiming for physical medicine and rehabilitation, and is considering a fellowship later on in cancer rehabilitation.
“I feel I could see myself going into cancer rehabilitation,” she said. ““It’s inspiring to me to take patients who are at what might be their lowest point and build them back to their best. It all came from a job I got after college. At that time I didn’t realize how important that job would be and how much it would shape my direction.”
Well on her way toward her dream, Johnson will conduct her preliminary internal medicine residency at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and her in physical medicine and rehabilitation at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Columbia and Cornell, both in New York City.
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 MCOM Office of Student Affairs, 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.
As if the sudden appearance of pirates wasn’t enough of a surprise, a marriage proposal popped out of nowhere when Matthew Wollenschlaeger fell to one knee as Ansley Brown read her Match letter, which had the words “Will you marry me?” added at the bottom, thanks to the help from the Office of Student Affairs staff. A gasp and a quiet nod ‘yes’ along with tears and a huge smile gave Matt his answer. Theirs was the second proposal in the history of USF Match Days.
And three Division I USF Bull former athletes who are now senior medical students all matched. They are Melissa Rosas (softball), Monique Konstantinovic (track and field), and Jonathan Koscso (baseball).
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 Nikki Freedman, who matched in preliminary internal medicine residency at Cleveland Clinic in Weston, FL, and diagnostic radiology residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, FL.
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: 41 students (24%) are staying at USF; 64 (37%) are staying in Florida; and 83 students (42%) 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.
Photos by Eric Younghans, video by Sandra C. Roa, USF Health Office of Communications.