Morsani College of Medicine

Dermatology & Cutaneous Surgery

Seeking their perfect match

Three dreams.

One day.

Three USF students envision different careers in medicine – all highly competitive, all different paths.

They all have special talents outside of doctoring: One is an artist. One, a politican. Another, a visionary. In their different ways, all are leaders.

Their talents and their dreams are different. But they – and more than than 100 other members of the USF College of Medicine class of 2010 – would all find out within the space of an hour whether those dreams would be fulfilled.

On March 18, 2010. Match Day.

On the same day, all across the country, medical students would find out where they will spend the next few years of their lives, doing graduate training in the specialties they hope to pursue.

The ritual is foreign to those outside of medicine. Medical students apply to the programs they seek, and rank them in order. Programs list which students they want. A computer matches them all. On Match Day, students find out where – and whether – they have matched.

Some would be jubilant. Some, crushed.

And until it’s over, all would be nervous. Medical students know that matching is getting harder. Certain specialties, such as dermatology and orthopaedics, have become so popular that only top students can win a coveted slot. And finding a match is becoming more difficult for all students, as the number of medical students is growing faster than the number of residents, or students doing graduate training.

Which is why these three students – Navid Eghbalieh, Nishit Patel, and Lindsay Rumberger – were anxious as they awaited their fate.


Eghbalieh, 28, has always seen the world as an artist. He sees the world in lines and colors, light and shadow. He meets people and imagines what they would be like to paint. Sometimes he would rather paint than sleep.

So maybe it’s not surprising that Eghbalieh’s painting brought him to medicine – and has helped him choose the specialty he hopes to pursue.

As a teenager in Los Angeles, Eghbalieh would go out and sketch people. He would hang each picture on his bedroom wall for a while as he thought about what he learned from doing that picture. What did it tell him about his subjects’ experience? He’d think about it, mull it over, and then the picture would make way for a new one.

It was a good way to make sense of a world that hasn’t always been easy for Eghbalieh and his family. Of Greek-Persian descent, Eghbalieh was born in Iran, the youngest of three brothers. When he was 6, his family fled the country abruptly, in fear that his oldest brother was about to be conscripted.

They started all over again in Los Angeles, where at first, his parents worked multiple jobs and the three brothers shared a bedroom. Gradually, things became easier. He is grateful.

“I was very lucky,” he said.

Yet Eghbalieh has always been drawn to documenting the problems of the less fortunate. The rotating art gallery in his room ended the day Eghbalieh came across a free clinic for homeless people at the Santa Monica pier. He sketched a doctor helping a mother with three children. He came home and put the picture on his wall.

And then he couldn’t take it down.

Eghbalieh began volunteering as a patient escort and asking to shadow doctors. As a college student at UCLA, he became an EMT. Then he went on to medical school.

At USF, he first thought he would become a surgeon. But then he discovered radiology. It spoke to his artistic sense.

“With radiology, it was a visual approach to a diagnostic puzzle,” he said.

His interest in radiology deepened as some of his family members faced medical challenges, and he saw the importance of imaging firsthand.

Along the way, Eghbalieh has kept up his interest in helping homeless people. He will graduate from USF with a scholarly concentration in health disparities. He volunteers with homeless shelters in Tampa Bay, giving talks on preventive medicine. He’s working now on a series of paintings of homeless children, which he hopes to exhibit to raise awareness about the challenges they face.

Eghbalieh knows radiology is a competitive specialty. He tried not to worry about whether he will match.

Or where.

“Whatever’s meant to be will be,” he said.

Nor does he worry about whether he’ll be able to juggle medicine and art.

“No matter how busy I am or will be some day,” he said, “I will always find time for art.”


Nishit Patel was born in India, but his earliest memories are in South Florida. His family moved there when he was a toddler. His parents got the jobs they could find, working in a grocery store, because they wanted better lives for Patel and his older sister.

“It was the constant message,” he said. “Everybody is dying to be here and you got this opportunity.”

It’s easy to take American opportunities for granted, said Patel, 24. He had to remind himself, growing up, to stop and think about how different it could have been.

“Even the fact that you can get a free education and have it be a good one is really radical,” he pointed out.

Patel’s parents pushed another message as well: the importance of service and selflessness.

“If you’re not doing anything for your community, it doesn’t matter how successful you are,” Patel was told.

Those messages may have primed Patel, “the dork in the high school math club,” to consider medicine. But it was an experience in college, shadowing a hospitalist, that convinced him. Patel was deeply impressed by the doctor’s dedication.

“There are really very few people who love their job,” Patel said. “That made me realize that this is what I want.”

Those same values have pushed Patel to be a leader. He served as class co-president each of his first three years in medical school and this year is the student council president. Among the most meaningful experiences has been his work to have his class adopt a middle school.

The class learned the school had never had a school dance, so they hosted one for them. They also did a mini med-school day for the students. The most satisfying thing for Patel was hearing students say, “I want to be a doctor.”

Patel decided on dermatology after another shadowing experience. He shadowed Dr. Mary Lien, assistant professor and director of medical student education for USF dermatology. Patel was struck by Dr. Lien’s excitement and passion for her work.  Then Dr. Basil Cherpelis, assistant professor and USF’s chief of dermatologic surgery, became a mentor to Patel.

As Patel spent more time in dermatology, he saw more doctors who loved their jobs – as well as many who shared his beliefs about community involvement. He was hooked.

Patel worried about how hard it would be to find a dermatology residency.

But he decided to try anyway.

“I don’t know if I can pull it off,” he said. “The one thing I learned is if you want something badly enough, you may not get it the first time….but eventually, you do.”

So Patel applied only to dermatology residencies, with no back-up plan. His top choice: staying here, at USF.

“The whole time, USF has felt like home,” he said. “I never got that feeling anywhere else.”


Like children everywhere, Lindsay Rumberger loved to sculpt objects out of Play-Doh.

Her favorite Play-Doh activity: making a pancreas.

As one of six children growing up in Vero Beach, Rumberger learned a lot about the pancreas. She and three of her siblings share the same rare condition, hereditary pancreatitis.

It’s a disease marked by nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. But Rumberger used her experience to look forward – toward a career in medicine.

“We had a lot of exposure to the medical field,” said Rumberger, 26.

All through med school, Rumberger has carried her childhood fascination with her. She hopes to be a surgeon and specialize in oncologic or other surgeries of the pancreas.

From the beginning, Rumberger has heard a constant refrain: “The lifestyle is hard,” people would say. It’s a tough choice for a woman.

Rumberger decided not to listen.

Instead, she found a role model in Dr. Sharona Ross, assistant professor of surgery and director of surgical endoscopy at USF Health. Last fall, Dr. Ross launched the USF Women in Surgery initiative.  Rumberger pointed out that not only is Dr. Ross recognized for her innovative surgical techniques, but balances her career with raising four children.

“Seeing that a woman really can do it was really inspiring,” Rumberger said.

Rumberger pointed out that surgery is rapidly becoming less of a male field. Although only six women have chaired academic surgery programs in the U.S., these days thirty to fifty percent of applicants to surgical residencies are women.

At Dr. Ross’ request, Rumberger helped organize a Women in Surgery symposium in February that brought in experts from across the nation. Rumberger hopes the group can give women considering surgery as a career the support they need to choose that path.

“You really realize that a lot of women get discouraged along the career path,” she said.

Instead, she hopes the group can highlight the positives.

“The definite pro side is that it’s a job you’ll love,” Rumberger said. “It will always be different and fun and exciting, every day.”

But Rumberger has found the anticipation of Match Day to be more excitement than she needs.

“It’s nerve racking,” she confessed. “I definitely haven’t slept well.”

Then there’s the oddity of interviews around the country, leading up to the match.

“It’s like dating a bunch of different people at the same time,” Rumberger joked. “You like them, do they like you? You’re not sure…There’s nothing like it in any other profession.”


By Florida standards, it was chilly at Skipper’s for Match Day, but the students didn’t seem to mind. They gathered with classmates, parents and children, waiting for their names to be called.

For the first time, USF Health produced live streaming video to Facebook, allowing students to greet family members watching elsewhere – from as far away as India and Dubai. More than 1,000 people watched from their computers.

They saw as students screamed and laughed and cried and jumped up and down. Some students brought their children up to the stage to open envelopes, and one little boy read his mother’s letter.

They learned that many in the class would scatter, traveling as far as Utah and Arizona, Indiana and Ohio. Another large group will stay at home, here at USF or nearby in Orlando. Programs that USF students matched into this year include Massachusetts General Hospital, Emory University School of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, and Childrens Hospital Boston.

When Dr. Steven Specter, associate dean of student affairs, called out Rumberger’s name, she hurried to the stage.

“I’m nervous,” she told Specter.

And then she waved her paper in the air.

“University of Tennessee KNOXVILLE!” she yelled.

It’s good news for Rumberger: one of her top choices. Her mother is originally from the Knoxville area, and Rumberger thought the program seemed like a good fit for her.

Then it was Eghbalieh’s turn.

“My heart is beating really fast,” he announced.

“WOOOOOOO!!!” he yelled. “All right!”

Eghbalieh will head to the University of California at San Francisco for his first year and then on to Tulane University School of Medicine for his diagnostic radiology residency.

Eghbalieh’s oldest brother is a UCSF surgeon, and he’ll get to spend a year closer to his parents. He’s thrilled.

Another handful of students, and it was Patel’s turn.

“Go Nish!” students yelled as Patel went up to read the news. He opened the envelope and smiled.

“You’re stuck with me another four years!” he cried. “USF dermatology!”

He hugged Dr. Specter, then Dr. Stephen Klasko, dean of the College of Medicine.

Once it was all over, he still couldn’t quite believe it.

“There were so many good people applying,” Patel said. “To be able to get my first choice is exhilarating.”

— Story by Lisa Greene, photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications