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Anthony Scott, CU School of Medicine medical student

Medical School Students Celebrate Virtual Match Day

Virtual speakers inspired the 182 future residents with words of wisdom about overcoming obstacles and the importance of showing up.

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Written by Emma Brokaw on March 22, 2021

For the second year in a row, the University of Colorado School of Medicine Match Day celebration was hosted virtually for students, faculty, staff, family, and friends due to the pandemic. Instead of a mad dash to retrieve an envelope from a bulletin board, like the Match Day Jeff Druck, MD, assistant dean of student affairs, experienced, this year’s Match announcement was replaced by an email that promptly hit inboxes at 10 a.m. MDT on Friday, March 19.

Match Day pairs fourth-year medical students with residency programs across the country. This event is a highly anticipated rite of passage many medical students look forward to throughout their time in medical school. Though graduation marks the completion of a degree, residency is the continuation of medical education and the Match defines where that education will transpire.

Shared experiences mixed with some disappointments

Match Day 2021

Shanta Zimmer, MD, and Connor
Frison-Royer, son of Danielle
Royer,PhD, associate professor

of Cell & Developmental Biology.

The virtual celebration kicked off with short Match Day anecdotes from Brian Dwinnell, MD, associate dean of student life, Amira Del Pino-Jones, MD, assistant dean of student affairs, Jeff Druck, MD, professor of emergency medicine, and Shanta Zimmer, MD, senior associate dean for education and associate dean for diversity and inclusion.

The common theme among the stories shared was the various emotions each experienced leading up to their Match. Though this event is most commonly experienced with happiness and excitement, every year there are some who are disappointed with their result. Del Pino-Jones recounted her own Match Day and recalled feeling particularly connected with classmates who were disappointed with their results.

“I had a lot of my classmates who were overjoyed and some who were disappointed, and I connected with those classmates who were a little bit more disappointed. And they couldn’t be happier with the results of their Match to this day,” Del Pino-Jones said. “I fully believe that things happen the way they are supposed to happen, and if you speak to some of those people now, they will tell you they ended up exactly where they were supposed to be, and they couldn’t be happier.”

Druck also shared his unique experience receiving a call on No Match Monday and being told he was not matched with the emergency medicine preliminary program he had applied to. In a quick turn of events, Druck found himself completing a preliminary surgery year in Hawaii before coming to Denver for emergency medicine.

“Definitely a little different experience,” Druck said. “What I would also like to relay to you all is that you are very adept now at being flexible. One of the things that you don’t realize until you are further along in this journey is how important flexibility is and how much it matters that you are able to turn when things don’t go the way you would expect.”

Words of wisdom from a class favorite

Khyla Burrows

Khyla Burrows matched with the
Department of Obstetrics
and Gynecology at the University
of California Davis.

As this year’s faculty keynote speaker, Austin Butterfield, MD, assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry, explained to the 182 students, obstacles become part of the journey. He reflected on a trip to Target one evening. Needing only a plunger and a bottle of Drano, Butterfield received a number of judgmental stares as he stood in line at checkout. As a double board-certified psychiatrist, he could guess their thoughts.

If he had only grabbed a cart and added more supplies, he would have looked prepared instead of in distress, he mused. This was his lesson to the students: “No matter where you Match, no matter when you become an attending, no matter what happens next, you can still have those moments of humanness. Because no matter who you are, you’re still going to need a plunger.”

In his follow-up message to the Class of 2021, John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, dean for the School of Medicine, added, “Austin transformed the awkward moment into a life lesson. Learn from challenges and don’t let your emotions control your ability to face them.”

Another anecdote Butterfield shared centered around the difference between Stoicism “with a big S” and being stoic. “When you call someone a stoic, it’s like they don’t have emotions, but that’s not actually what Stoicism is,” he said. “Stoicism is about how we work with our emotions.” 

“One of my favorite phrases from Stoicism is ‘The obstacle is the way.’" Butterfield said. “I had an obstacle [at Target] that I had to fix, and I was very proud of myself, because, I can do family therapy, but I can also make sure my house functions. The obstacle is the way. That is what residency is, because you can’t get good at anything by not doing it.”

Embrace your path and show up

Garimella Match Day

Sanju Garimella matched with the
Yale University Internal
Medicine Residency Program.

Gavriel Roda, this year’s elected student speaker, recalled her reflection on Schrödinger's cat paradox throughout the Match process. In Schrödinger's imaginary experiment, a cat is placed in a box with a bit of a radioactive substance that has a 50% chance of triggering a poison to be released and a 50% chance of doing nothing. Until you look in the box, you don’t know whether the cat is dead or alive, rendering the cat both dead and alive at the same time.

“Today we meet our own personal and proverbial boxes, strapped with a similar uncertainty as our allegorical feline,” Roda said. “Regardless of what you find in your Schrödinger’s email, I hope you remember what makes you the exceptional humans you are today. This, unlike the cat and unlike our Matches, is not suspended in animation.”

She also acknowledged the resilience and perseverance of her peers while studying, rounding, and researching, remaining formidable in the face of a global pandemic and future uncertainties. Roda encouraged the future residents to embrace the outcomes of Match Day boldly and proudly and to dive into whatever challenges may come next.

Minutes before the Match emails arrived, Zimmer addressed the students, sharing her experience as a new intern and emphasizing the importance of showing up.

“I remember being on call at the university hospital after two months at the county hospital, and the nurse called me and said, ‘Hey Dr. Zimmer, we have a patient with gamma delta T-cell lymphoma. He’s short of breath,’ and I said, ‘I think I know what to do for that; I’ll be right there,’” Zimmer said. “So just remember to keep your thinking cap on. You don’t have to know everything, but you have to know how to show up.”