School of Medicine ‘class of change’ celebrates results of Match Day 2021
March 23, 2021
By Anne Christiansen-Bullers
When Peyton Harjo was 5 years old, she told her parents she was going to be a doctor. And on March 19, 2021, she (and thousands of other students like her) found out where that aspiration will be realized.
Harjo is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita. She joined medical students across the country to discover where they'll be working after graduation and in what specialization.
The yearly event, called Match Day, celebrates the simultaneous release of results from a national company. That company collects the preferences of medical students and matches them with the residency programs in hospitals and clinics.
The matches come only after residency programs conduct rigorous interviews and screening processes to find the best "fit" for their program. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the usual face-to-face interviewing process. Medical students could get a "feel" for a program through Zoom sessions with faculty or social-media conversations with alumni. So, some recent medical graduates will start work in a place they've yet to see.
‘Class of change'
But the Class of 2021 met these challenges and more, according to Robert P. Moser, M.D., dean of the KU School of Medicine-Salina. In fact, he called the cohort "the class of change, the class of resiliency" in an outdoor ceremony in Salina.
Moser said the students were "change leaders" because they weathered the transition to the School of Medicine-Salina's new location, a change to a new curriculum and global pandemic that threatened to (but did not) derail their education.
"The students really have had a lot of challenges in their career, and I think they've faced it admirably," Moser said.
Guinea pigs or pioneers?
Change was also on the mind of Robert D. Simari, M.D., executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center. His congratulations shared via a Zoom meeting with medical students, faculty and staff of the KU School of Medicine-Kansas City, Kansas.
He, too, mentioned the change in School of Medicine curriculum. The wholesale replacement of curriculum focused on more active, competency-based and excellence-driven (ACE) goals, and the class of 2021 was the first to complete all four years using this new ACE curriculum.
"While many of you consider yourselves guinea pigs, we consider you pioneers," Simari said. "We put a tremendous amount of effort and resources into the ACE curriculum. And you put a tremendous amount of time and effort to make the curriculum better. We thank you for that."
Mark Meyer, M.D., senior associate dean for student affairs for the KU School of Medicine, ended the short Zoom meeting where students from the Kansas City, Kansas, campus could share their matches.
"We hope you know how much we relied on the feedback you gave us and your tolerance during the rocky times. But we never had any doubt that you all would rock this curriculum and put yourself in a position to be successful, as you have demonstrated today," Meyer said.
About that quilt
KU medical students had the opportunity to post their matches on the Instagram account kumatchday. That's where Harjo posted a photo of her Match Day present from her mother, a Jayhawk quilt.
"My mom made the KU Med T-shirt quilt in her downtime this year," Harjo said. "She ordered some of the shirts from the KU bookstore, but most she hand-made with fabric and lettering." And where did her mother learn how to quilt? From her daughter.
"I learned to quilt in high school and taught my mom when I was in college so she could make t-shirt quilts for my brother and me," Harjo said.
Harjo and the quilt will be staying in Kansas, since she matched in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita.
"My mom is a nurse lactation consultant and childbirth educator, so I have grown up in the realm of labor and delivery," Harjo said. "I chose OBGYN because I wanted to be a part of some of the most exciting and vulnerable moments in my patients' lives."
How each campus celebrated
How the University of Kansas School of Medicine decided to observe Match Day depended on campus location and the number of students in each class. With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to make large gatherings risky for the unvaccinated, this is how each campus decided to celebrate.
Number of matched medical students: 8
Location: In-person meeting at a restaurant patio where each medical student had his or her own table to share with their personal guests. Tables were spread out, and participants wore masks.
Number of matched medical students: More than 65
Location: In-person meeting at the Hughes Metropolitan Complex, Wichita State University. Students dressed in matching "Match Day" shirts gathered to read their results on stage and pin their residency location on a map of the United States. Guests were excluded to keep numbers low, though the event was streamed on Zoom.
"Getting a little crowded over there?" asked Garold Minns, M.D., dean of the KU School of Medicine-Wichita, as he noticed a sunburst of pins in the Wichita area of the map. Later he told the students, "Despite all the impediments we've shared, I'm extremely excited where you all are going."
Number of matched medical students: More than 125
Location: Voluntary meet-up via Zoom where administration and faculty from KU Medical Center congratulated medical students, either live or with a prerecorded message. The medical students then shared their residency locations with each other.
More Match Day stories
Want to know more about KU matches? Visit kumatchday on Instagram, and check out a sampling of student stories below.
Name: Kerry Mian
Campus: Kansas City
Match: University of Kansas, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
How I feel about that: Beyond excited and grateful!
I celebrated: with my wife, daughter, family friend, mother-in-law and father-in-law.
What I'll remember from Match Day: The look of excitement on my wife's face!
Name: Meghan Blythe
Match: University of South Alabama-Mobile, General Surgery
How I feel about that: I am so excited about general surgery and about the South Alabama program. I really connected to the residents and faculty there during my virtual interview.
I celebrated: with family at home in White City. We had brunch as a family. My parents and siblings are pumped to come visit me near the beach.
What I'll remember from Match Day: Celebrating this milestone with my classmates!
Name: Ayodale Braimah
Match: University of Washington, Internal Medicine
How I feel about that: I'm looking forward to the next step of my training and am very excited. It's been an interesting year in terms of applying to residency and it feels good that the process is over.
I celebrated: with my significant other, Amanda. She was excited to see where I would end up.
What I'll remember from Match Day: Seeing the joy on my classmates faces as they found out where they'll be going for the next step in their training.