Match Day 2023 produces joyful tears for UC Davis medical students
106 fourth-year medical students matched into residency programs, mostly in California
At exactly 9 a.m. Friday, more than 100 anxious UC Davis medical students stopped what they were doing and fixed their eyes on their phones, computer screens and tablets.
These fourth-year students were about to view a webpage that would dictate where in the United States they will spend the next three to seven years of residency training. All will graduate soon, and residency is the final on-ramp for the long academic highway to becoming full-fledged physicians.
As soon as students read their announcement, they hollered in celebration, then shared the news with the entire School of Medicine Class of 2026 that had logged into a Zoom call that was streamed live on Facebook.
Kayla Meadows, who signed on at the home of her classmate and neighbor Angelica Martin, was speechless at first, before blurting out a very loud, “Oh my God!” Then she fanned herself with her left hand, as if to produce more oxygen. On her laptop was the following message: “CONGRATULATIONS!!! …Institution Name: UC Davis Med Ctr-CA. Program name: Obstetrics-Gynecology.”
Her fate had been determined. She was staying at UC Davis Health for the next four years, and it was her top choice. Martin, too, will stay for a six-year residency in cardiothoracic surgery, also her first choice.
“We’re staying! We’re staying! We’re staying. We’re staying!” Martin said while sobbing and embracing Meadows.
This is Match Day 2023. It’s probably the most anxious and suspenseful day of medical school.
To get here, students endured two years of rigorous lectures, exams and labs, followed by two years of patient care experience. Built into the fourth-year curriculum was a monthslong process that resembled dating: Students submit residency applications with academic medical center programs that offer the specialty training they’re interested in. Then students interview and rank the programs they’d like to attend. Leaders of those programs rank the students, too.
The programs and the students then send their choices to an organization called the National Resident Matching Program. A computer decides which student gets matched where.
The students who celebrate the loudest on Match Day are typically the ones who got into their top choice.
All 106 UC Davis students who entered the match got placed into programs. They are among nearly 43,000 students who matched nationwide.
The scene at Martin’s apartment was played out at dozens of other homes in and around Sacramento, where students were surrounded by partners, friends and other key supporters from at least the past four years.
Students celebrate each others’ achievements
Aggie blue and gold balloons adorned the room as class co-presidents Samya Faiq and Ian Joseph celebrated together with classmates, family and friends.
“This moment has been four years in the making,” shared Joseph, who matched at Harbor-UCLA in general surgery. “As special as today is, the hard-work we have put in to get here is what really needs to be celebrated.”
Faiq jumped and hugged her parents, who travelled from Lafayette in the East Bay, after finding out she matched at UCLA in Internal Medicine.
“Our class is a magical group,” proclaimed Faiq. “None of us would be here today to experience this special moment without the support we have received from one another.”
The intimacy of the class of 2023 was on display, as the group exuberantly cheered when their classmates shared where they matched on Zoom.
“We are just so proud of what we have all accomplished as a class,” they both proudly expressed.
“¡Voy a ser doctor! ¡Voy a ser doctor!”
The countdown to 9 a.m. began at Manuel “Manny” Fierro’s sister-in-law’s home. His wife Becky sat to his left, her hands clasped at her lap as she shivered with excitement. Fierro held tightly to his oldest daughter’s hand as he reached for his iPad. His sister-in-law could be heard in the background whispering, “I’m going to cry,” just as Fierro clicked open the browser.
“We got UC Davis!” he exclaimed while pumping his fist in the air.
Cheers and clapping erupted. The excitement across the room was palpable. Even the family’s two Shih Tzu’s started running circles around the living room, seemingly just as eager to be included in the hugging.
Fierro, who will train in anesthesiology, then picked up his phone, on which he’d been Facetiming with his parents who were watching from El Paso, Texas.
“¡Voy a ser doctor! ¡Voy a ser doctor!” (I’m going to be a doctor) he told his parents as his voice broke.
He thanked them for their support as he wiped his eyes.
Fierro, originally from a town of less than 200 people in Chihuahua, Mexico, was overwhelmed as he explained how much this moment meant to him and his family.
“My parents had very little growing up, and we grew up very poor before moving to El Paso.” Fierro continued: “I was the first to go to and graduate from college. To now be here, it brings a lot of memories of all we went through and the sacrifices my parents made for this to happen.”
Most students will train in primary care medicine
While students learned of their match results at home, a small group of deans from the School of Medicine watched the reactions and delivered brief speeches on the other end of the Zoom call anchored at Betty Irene Moore Hall. They were watching from a large lecture hall where in-person Match Day celebrations were held before the pandemic forced the events online.
The vast majority of the UC Davis students – 82% – will stay in California after graduating in May, and 23% of them will remain at UC Davis Health.
Most students, 58%, will go into primary care programs. The large share is encouraging, as UC Davis and other UC medical schools fervently try to produce more internal and family medicine doctors. The future primary care providers, who will be in residency for three years, are in short supply in rural locations where they are sorely needed care for California’s underserved populations.
Emergency medicine programs will receive 15 of the graduates, and 13 are going into pediatrics. A total of nine are headed for anesthesia programs, which takes four years and is among the top-paying specialties.
Students who won’t stay in California matched into programs in 13 states, including places where they will endure brutal winters (Minnesota) and blazing summers (Arizona).
After the Zoom concluded, students walked and drove to Vanderhoef Lawn at the UC Davis Health campus to celebrate with classmates and faculty supporters and dine on burritos provided by the Office of Medical Education.
Students found their way to easel stands that displayed two colorful posters – one showing California, the other displaying the United States – and tiny, fingernail-sized photographs of each student on the pinhead of a pin.
Their assignment was to press their picture pin into the location where they will complete their graduate medical education, which then qualifies them for board certification in their chosen field.
California was well-represented.
“We are so proud to have so many graduates staying in California for residency,” said Sharad Jain, associate dean for students and professor of internal medicine. “We are excited to help support the workforce issues in the state.”
Claudia Coons and Liam Connolly contributed to this report.