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.
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.”
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, 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, 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, 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.”
To learn more about UConn School of Medicine, visit: https://medicine.uconn.edu/