Health Beat: ‘A match made in heaven’ for UConn med students

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This past Friday, University of Connecticut School of Medicine students found out where they will be spending the next phase of their medical training, according to UConn Today.

In a video released by UConn Health, signs with the names of their future residency schools were displayed for all to see, and behind them, the proud, smiling faces of these students echoed years of hard work finally paid off. 

This ceremony, known universally to med students as “Match Day,” is held every year on March 19. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony was held mostly online for the first time ever. 

In a livestreamed address to the matching class, UConn School of Medicine Dean Dr. Bruce T. Liang congratulated the students and delivered a message of good luck. 

“Congratulations Class of 2021! Today is another milestone in your journey of medicine and all that hard work has paid off. You are ready to be a physician or a surgeon, and researcher, or both,” Dr. Liang said. “As a resident you will be part of health care’s front-line.” 

Dr. Liang closed his remarks by expressing how proud he and the UConn Health staff is with the graduating class. 

At noon, Medical Student Affairs Associate Dean Dr. Melissa Held made the announcement the students had all been waiting for, and over 100 matching students and their families, many of whom tuned in from home, opened their envelopes in unison to receive their graduate medical education (GME) residency training destinations for the next several years, in locations spanning Connecticut and the United States, according to UConn Today. 

“We’re going to Nationwide Children’s Hospital!” Class of 2021 medical student Julia Plourde, 27, and her boyfriend Ryan Ciarlo, 29, exclaimed in unison, in video from UConn Health. Four years ago, they met on their first day of medical school, and now they will head to Columbus, Ohio together to study pediatrics, according to UConn Today. 

Amidst the excitement, a few students remarked on how the pandemic had affected their final year at UConn. 

“It’s been crazy. Everyone’s been impacted in their own way personally by the pandemic. Our Class of 2021 was the first to apply to residencies virtually instead of traveling across the country for interviews,” Ghali Lemtiri-Chlieh, 27, who matched with Lahey Clinic Medical Center in Boston for urology, told UConn Today. “It’s been a lot of adaptation, including for our clinical rotations, which were limited at first due to the virus, but then we were able to get heavily involved in pandemic care and give back by serving COVID-19 patients on the front line. We will be able to look back and say, ‘Wow we’re a part of that.’” 

“Being a medical student and applying to residency during a pandemic has differed from pre-pandemic times,” Lilah Fones, 27, who matched with Thomas Jefferson University for orthopedic surgery, said. “My classmates and I all needed to make a decision of where we wanted to spend the next 3-7 years training based solely on virtual interviews without the opportunity to visit in person.” 

An uncertain year for these students now concludes with being sent off to different parts of the country to continue education. These students, freshly matched, will become the next generation of doctors and surgeons, but Dr. Liang reminded them not to forget their UConn roots. 

“You are forever a member of the UConn Husky Family,” Dr. Liang concluded in his address. “Good wishes, good luck and we love you.” 

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