As with previous Match Day ceremonies, the UC Davis School of Medicine deans on Friday stood at the front of a large lecture hall surrounded by balloons and decorations. They gathered to honor the achievements of fourth-year medical students and celebrate the moment when the soon-to-be-doctors would simultaneously open envelopes to learn where they would be heading for residency.

Screen image of Facebook live Match Day ceremony and viewer comments
Screen image of Facebook live Match Day ceremony and viewer comments

But unlike any previous ceremony, Match Day 2020 was missing a critical component: There were no students joined by loved ones in the Education Building lecture hall.

Instead, the audience of hundreds was watching online.

Match Day was streamed live on Facebook, and the “envelopes” came in the form of individual emails sent to 115 students on their smartphones, tablets and computers.

This is what happens when the global phenomenon known as COVID-19 coronavirus touches the lives of billions of people – and presidents, governors, mayors, chancellors and deans cancel large gatherings to keep the virus from spreading.

“Welcome to the Class of 2020 Match Day,” announced Vice Dean for Medical Education Mark Servis, into a handheld microphone in Lecture Hall 1222, which showed on screen as row upon row of empty chairs. “Very unusual match day for us… unique, I must say.”

He said virtual Match Day would probably be remembered by every student “as something very different.”

He also is the head of the Office of Medical Education (OME), which worked for months to plan Match Day, only to be forced to divert time and time again in the past few days, as the highly contagious coronavirus spread throughout the Sacramento region.

Some medical schools across the country canceled Match Day entirely. But Servis and his team received kudos from the UC Davis School of Medicine community for creating a responsible yet celebratory way to hold the ceremony. The livestream was hastily arranged by OME staff and their partners in Information Technology, Audio Visual and the Public Affairs social media team.

School of Medicine Dean Allison Brashear sent students a congratulatory message before the ceremony.

“I know this isn’t what you really thought it would be, it’s not what any of us thought it would be,” she said in the video, “but please don’t let the events that are overtaking the country in any way diminish all that you’ve accomplished.”

Shortly before the 9 a.m. email announcements would be opened, Charlene Green, director of admissions, started the final countdown into the livestream camera – a time when an in-person audience of hundreds would normally join in.

“Seven…six…five...” she announced, while a small cast of supporters from OME danced into the background of the video, throwing their hands into the air to punctuate the countdown.

“Four…three…two…one!” she exclaimed, and then went into singsong: “You matched, you matched, you matched, you matched, you matched!”

Seconds later, a seemingly endless stream of comments scrolled onto the screens for everyone to see, as students and their supporters were undoubtedly jumping up and down wherever they were watching from.

The stream looked like this:

“Callum Rowe: Children’s LA!” … “Sea Bass: uc davis anesthesiology!” … “Mariel Marquespi: Valley Children’s!!!!!!” in a message that was followed by two thumbs up likes.

“Garrett John: UC Davis – Internal Med / Psychiatry.” … “Brian Jeff: Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Washington! GO HUSKIES!” followed by emoji of three dogs … “Angie Marrufo: UC Davis Surgery.” … “Replying to Tynisha: Angie Marrufo YES YES YES YES!!!!!”

“Frankie Valdez: I GOT MY TOP CHOICE!!!” … “Arram No: University of New Mexico!! FIRST CHOICE!” …  “Nav Dhillon: Nav and Rachel (couples): UCSD EM and Psych.” … “Brenda Wu: STAYING PUT, UCD OBGYN!” with 11 likes … “Lorena Garcia: HARBOR UCLA GEN SURG!!!”

As students announced the locations where they will spend the next three or more years, a busy team of OME staffers – Marjorie Westervelt, Darolyn Striley and Roy Rai – moved fast to place pin drops on maps.

As usual this year, a large number of students – 77% – will stay in California for residency. A total of 19% will be with UC Davis Health. And 59% of all residents were matched into primary care fields, said Associate Dean of Student Sharad Jain.

The top six specialties that students matched into are: family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology and psychiatry.

The top four programs are: UC Davis, Harbor-UCLA, Kaiser Permanente and UCSF.

Watch the archived Facebook livestream here.