Match Day 2018: Future Doctors’ Destinies Revealed

March 16, 2018 is Match Day, the emotional medical school tradition when white envelopes around the country are enthusiastically torn open by fourth-year medical students at the strike of 12 noon.

Match Day at UConn Health, where medical students find out where they will spend the next three to six years in residency training programs. The annual rite of passage for fourth-year medical students took place on March 16, 2018. (Lauren Woods/UConn Health Photo)
Match Day at UConn Health, where medical students find out where they will spend the next three to six years in residency training programs. The annual rite of passage for fourth-year medical students took place on March 16, 2018. (Lauren Woods/UConn Health Photo)

At UConn School of Medicine, the special annual celebration took place in the Academic Lobby. Nearly 80 matching medical students gathered anxiously with their fellow students, friends, family, and faculty to await the countdown and learn where each is destined to spend the next three to six years of their lives in specialized residency training programs.

The 78 of the 84 students in the 2018 class who chose to participate in this year’s National Resident Match Program (NRMP) achieved a high match success rate of 97 percent.

Nearly 49 percent of them are entering training in the much needed primary care specialties of family medicine, internal medicine, medicine/pediatrics, and pediatrics. Also, 49 percent of students are remaining in New England, including 21 students in Connecticut; 29 percent in the Northeast; and 22 percent are headed to other states as far away as California.

“This is another exciting milestone for UConn’s medical school and its students,” said Dr. Bruce T. Liang, dean of UConn School of Medicine. “We have another successful year, with over 50 percent of our medical students matched to their first choice residency program, and over 80 percent to one of their top three choices.

“Our medical students are going to some of the best residency programs in the country,” he added. “We are proud of their success and accomplishments.”

Couples Match

Evan Tomkiewicz and Sarah Grout at UConn Health Match Day 2018. March 16, 2018. (Kristin Wallace/UConn Health Photo)
Evan Tomkiewicz and Sarah Grout, who met at UConn, chose to “couples match.” (Kristin Wallace/UConn Health Photo)

One matching UConn medical school student was Evan Tomkiewicz, 26, of Plattsburgh, New York who serves in the Connecticut Army National Guard. But he has already met his match at UConn, girlfriend Sarah Grout, 26, of New London.

They chose to “couples match,” and will both be headed to Indiana University School of Medicine for residency training, Tomkiewicz in emergency medicine and Grout in general surgery.

“We are so grateful to have both matched into our desired specialties,” says Grout. “I am so excited to pursue my dream of becoming a surgeon, and ultimately the best program I could see when I opened my letter was one where we both matched together.

“Residency training will be rigorous,” she continues, “and the importance of a partner’s support can’t be overlooked. I can’t express how much I am looking forward to the privilege of taking care of patients and learning surgical skills as an intern.”

Adds Tomkiewicz, “I’m excited and so is my family. UConn’s medical school has been such a collaborative atmosphere. The friends I’ve made here are so important to me.”

Tomkiewicz chose emergency medicine because he enjoys caring for the broad spectrum of patients that enter through the Emergency Department door, ranging from heart attack patients to those in severe pain.

“You also get to help people in underserved populations, and as a doctor in the ED you may be the first person that they get health care contact with,” he says. “Now that care is important to me.”

Next Stop, Washington, D.C.

Valerie Dorcelus matched to Howard University Hospital in Washington D.C. for her residency program in psychiatry. (Lauren Woods/UConn Health Photo)
Valerie Dorcelus matched to Howard University Hospital in Washington D.C. for her residency program in psychiatry. (Lauren Woods/UConn Health Photo)

Valerie Dorcelus, 28, who hails from Jamaica, Queens, matched to Howard University Hospital in Washington D.C. for her residency program in psychiatry.

“Match Day is the perfect culmination of years of hard work,” says Dorcelus. “UConn School of Medicine has really prepared us for our next steps in medicine.

“While we are all going into different fields,” she adds, “we all have the same goal of making medicine and healthcare better for so many.”

Dorcelus says UConn Health has been a family to her, preparing her to be an advocate for patients and fostering her desire to go into the mental health field. She singles out the support of Dr. Marja Hurley and the Health Career Opportunity Program, which played an integral part in her choosing the UConn School of Medicine.

“I have always been fascinated in how the brain works,” says Dorcelus. “Mental health is important in all communities, but it seems to always be put on the back burner. I’d like to put mental health in the forefront, as there currently are a lot of mental health disparities.”

A Dream Come True

Fludiona Naka. (Kristin Wallace/UConn Health Photo)
Fludiona Naka hopes to work with underserved populations. (Kristin Wallace/UConn Health Photo)

Fludiona Naka, 29, of Newington is originally from Albania. She is beyond excited for her Match Day and future training in Connecticut. She will be training in the field of dermatology at Yale-New Haven Hospital and then NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center.

“Match Day symbolizes the end of one journey and the beginning of another,” says Naka. “I`ve been dreaming about this day since I was a young girl living in Albania. It is almost surreal that my time has come. Attending UConn School of Medicine has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life.”

Naka’s goal is to work with underserved populations. She believes that everyone needs access to dermatological care, no matter their socioeconomic background or insurance type.

“My aspiration is to provide relief to the physical, psychological, and social consequences of skin disease through clinical practice and research,” she says.

Inspiring Connecticut’s Own

Franklin Sylvester with Dr. Marja Hurley at UConn Health Match Day 2018. March 16, 2018. (Kristin Wallace/UConn Health Photo)
Franklin Sylvester with Dr. Marja Hurley at UConn Health Match Day 2018. Sylvester will do his residency training in pediatrics. (Kristin Wallace/UConn Health Photo)

Franklin Sylvester, 25, grew up in Seymour, Connecticut, and has loved his time at UConn medical school, especially getting to know the children of Hartford and the Greater Hartford area in his clinical training rotations.

Sylvester will be doing his training in pediatrics. “I was inspired by my time working with UConn Health doctors and at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center,” he says. “Pediatrics is where I can make the most difference. From children’s health to their social issues, that is where I want to make an impact where I can.”

Before opening his white envelope, he commented that it would be great to get his first choice at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. And he got his wish. It’s a match.

“For medical students this is a rite of passage, and the biggest deal,” says UConn medical school’s Dr. David Henderson, associate dean for medical student affairs. “While emotional, it is really wonderful. Our UConn medical students do remarkably well and we are proud of them.”

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Law School’s DACA Clinic Advises Clients of Their Rights

Law students are offering consultations to young people affected by the discontinuation of the DACA immigration policy, while learning practical skills that will be useful in their own future careers, through a new Immigration and Detention and DACA Clinic at UConn Law.

The policy (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) allowed some individuals who entered the country illegally as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and be eligible for a work permit. Now, that policy is being phased out, leaving the lives of many young people uncertain.

People sometimes don’t know their basic rights, such as the right to legal representation at a hearing.  — Taylor Faranda Korthuis

The students provide those facing the loss of their DACA status with the best advice and options possible within the law. They are also helping immigrants held in detention to seek release and the opportunity to remain in the United States while they litigate their removal cases.

“There is a real need for legal services of this type. The issues at stake are very serious,” said Jon Bauer, a law professor who directs the program along with Anna Cabot, a teaching fellow at the School of Law. “People face being deported back to countries where they don’t know anyone, or where they may face serious persecution.”

The program is part of the UConn School of Law Legal Clinic, and is a spinoff of the Asylum and Human Rights Clinic, which was founded in 2002.

The UConn students are providing a valuable resource to a population in need while also receiving real-life experience that will benefit their future careers.

“We’re getting a lot of transferable skills, even if you’re not going into immigration,” said third-year student Stephanie O’Loughlin ’14 (CLAS), of Wolcott, Connecticut. “We’re really learning how to interview and counsel with our clients and learning how to tell them sometimes things that are difficult, which is the nature of any public interest law.”

“When you start to help people with no other option, you really understand what it is like to be an attorney,” said second-year student Jesse King of Avon, Connecticut. “With the uncertainty of the DACA program, our clients don’t even know their status for the next couple of weeks. You have to distance yourself from the political climate.”

The students often work in pairs on cases, as King did with second-year student Onya Brown from New Haven, Connecticut.

“We come from two completely different backgrounds and that helps us make decisions,” said Brown.

Second-year student Julia Steere of Trumbull, Connecticut, considers the clinic the best practical experience she’s had: “I’ve developed skills you don’t get in a traditional setting, and I am interacting with clients in a very emotional situation.”

She had one client who gave up going to college to support her family. “She let her younger sister go to college to support her own dreams,” said Steere. “She and her entire family live their life in fear. They even worry about driving and getting pulled over. They are not getting a fair chance to succeed because of this fear.”

The clinic is also partnering with the ACLU Immigrant Protection Project of Western Massachusetts to assist immigration detainees from Connecticut who are housed at the Franklin County House of Corrections in Greenfield. And, UConn is working with RAICES, a legal assistance program at the Karnes County Detention Center in Texas, to do work on behalf of detainees who are facing expedited removal because they were found not to have a “credible fear” of persecution.

“People sometimes don’t know their basic rights,” such as the right to legal representation at a hearing, said third-year student Taylor Faranda Korthuis of Colorado Springs, Colorado, who has worked with detainees at the Franklin County facility.  Her interest in immigration law is informed by the two years she lived in Costa Rica and Honduras before law school.

“I lived with families in poor neighborhoods with gangs and violence,” she said. “I learned why people flee their homes to come to the United States.”

Third-year student Shehrezad Haroon ’14 (CLAS), from Southington, Connecticut, has a special perspective on the issue: she came to the U.S. from Pakistan at the age of two.

“There is so much uncertainty, and that makes it difficult,” Haroon said. “I relate to the American dream and the opportunities in this country. I love to help people achieve that. People should not be punished for wanting that opportunity, especially when they came here at such a young age.”


The Most Complicated Object in the Universe

Part of a series of posts for Brain Awareness Week, March 12-16.

Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku said, “The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10,000 other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.” As long as humans have existed, people have sought to comprehend the brain. Although scholars have tried to decipher its codes for centuries, we’ve only scratched the surface.

At UConn, work with the brain spans disciplines, from psychology to linguistics to neuroscience and everything in between. In this special section, learn what UConn Health experts in neurology, physiology, gerontology, and even radiology are doing right now to further our knowledge of the brain and harness the latest discoveries and technology to improve patient care. More in the UConn Health Journal.

Dr. Alessi and the Concussion (R)evolution

3-D Printed Model Allows Brain Surgeons to Rehearse

New Epilepsy Monitoring Technology Tailors Patient Care

Pinpointing Risk Factors to Prevent Postoperative Delirium

Blood Vessels in Your Brain Don’t All Act the Same


Scientists Discover Evidence of Early Human Innovation, Pushing Back Evolutionary Timeline

An international team of anthropologists, including UConn researcher David Leslie, have discovered that early humans in East Africa had – by about 320,000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought – begun trading with distant groups, using color pigments, and manufacturing more sophisticated tools than those of the Early Stone Age.

Handaxes from the Olorgesailie Basin, Kenya. (Human Origins Program, Smithsonian)
Handaxes from the Olorgesailie Basin, Kenya. (Human Origins Program, Smithsonian)

These newly discovered activities, reported March 15 in the journal Science, occur tens of thousands of years earlier – verified using radiometric dating – than previous evidence has shown in eastern Africa, and approximately date to the oldest known fossil record of Homo sapiens.

These behaviors, which are characteristic of humans who lived during the Middle Stone Age, replaced technologies and ways of life that had been in place for hundreds of thousands of years.

Evidence for these milestones in humans’ evolutionary past comes from the Olorgesailie Basin in southern Kenya, which holds an archeological record of early human life spanning more than a million years. The new discoveries indicate that these behaviors emerged during a period of tremendous environmental variability in the region. As earthquakes remodeled the landscape and climate fluctuated between wet and dry conditions, technological innovation, social exchange networks, and early symbolic communication would have helped early humans survive and obtain the resources they needed despite unpredictable conditions, the scientists say.

“The innovation to create these new tools and adapt these new suites of behaviors is likely driven by the changes in the environment these people were adapting to,” says Leslie, a research scientist in the Department of Anthropology at UConn, whose expertise in stone tools helped with the research. “Developing new tools to extract more resources from the environment is a particularly human characteristic.”

An animation showing the small stone-point obsidian tool sliding off the larger, unshaped piece of volcanic stone. (Human Origins Program, Smithsonian)
An animation showing a small stone-point obsidian tool sliding off a larger, unshaped piece of volcanic stone. The obsidian was not sourced locally, suggesting that exchange networks were in place to move quantities of the stone across the ancient landscape. (Human Origins Program, Smithsonian)

The first evidence of human life in the Olorgesailie Basin comes from about 1.2 million years ago. For hundreds of the thousands of years, people living there made and used large stone-cutting tools called handaxes. Beginning in 2002, the team discovered a variety of smaller, more carefully shaped tools in the Olorgesailie Basin. Isotopic dating by collaborators revealed that the tools were surprisingly old – made between 320,000 and 305,000 years ago. These tools were carefully crafted and more specialized than the large, all-purpose handaxes. Many were points designed to be attached to a shaft and potentially used as projectile weapons, while others were shaped as scrapers or awls.

While the handaxes of the earlier era were manufactured using local stones, the researchers found small stone points made of non-local obsidian at their Middle Stone Age sites. The team also found larger, unshaped pieces of the sharp-edged volcanic stone at Olorgesailie, which has no obsidian source of its own. The diverse chemical composition of the artifacts matches that of a wide range of obsidian sources in multiple directions 15 to 55 miles away, suggesting exchange networks were in place to move the valuable stone across the ancient landscape.

The team also discovered black and red rocks – manganese and ocher – at the sites, along with evidence that the rocks had been processed for use as coloring material.

“The pigments are really interesting and important in that they show early signs of symbolic representation,” Leslie says. “They were maybe painting their bodies, perhaps their clothing, or using them for rock art. What is striking about the use of the pigment is that it shows people were thinking 320,000 years ago in very similar ways to how we think about the world too.”

Hoping to understand what might have driven such fundamental changes in human behavior, the research team integrated data from a variety of sources to assess and reconstruct the ancient environment in which the users of these artifacts lived. Their findings suggest that the period when these behaviors emerged was one of changing landscapes and climate, in which the availability of resources would have been unreliable.

Developing new tools to extract more resources from the environment is a particularly human characteristic. — David Leslie

Geological, geochemical, paleobotanical, and faunal evidence indicates that an extended period of climate instability affected the region beginning around 360,000 years ago, at the same time earthquakes were continually altering the landscape. Although some researchers have proposed that early humans evolved gradually in response to an arid environment, Potts says his team’s findings support an alternative idea. Environmental fluctuations would have presented significant challenges to inhabitants of the Olorgesailie Basin, prompting changes in technology and social structures that improved the likelihood of securing resources during times of scarcity.

The paper also highlights the published contributions of the Kapthurin Formation project, also in Kenya, led by UConn anthropology professor Sally McBrearty.

The research teams for this study published in Science include collaborators from the following institutions: the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museums of Kenya, George Washington University, the Berkeley Geochronology Center, the National Science Foundation, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Missouri, the University of Bordeaux (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), the University of Connecticut, Emory University, and the University of Bergen.

Funding for this research was provided by the Smithsonian, the National Science Foundation (grant numbers EAR-1322017, BCS-0218511 (RP) 2011116368 (AMZ), BCS-1240694 (ASB and AMZ), DGE-0801634, EAR-1322017, BCS-0802757, BCS-0814304), and George Washington University.