As Match Day nears, emotions build

Those who have been there vividly recall when they learned of their next step

By Sandra Gray and Bryan Goodchild

UMass Medical School Communications

March 16, 2011

First-year UMass medicine/pediatrics residents and 2010 School of Medicine graduates Jay Lawrence, MD, MPH, and Stephanie Galica Lawrence, MD, were successful in the couples match.

The third in a series of stories running this week on UMassMedNow about Match Day, which will be held this year on Thursday, March 17. Read previous stories: The envelope please . . . and UMass Medical School ranks 8th in primary care education.

In every life certain events are unforgettable, like your wedding day, the birth of a child—and for physicians, Match Day. “I can remember it like yesterday,” said UMMS Chancellor Michael F. Collins of his own Match Day some 30 years ago. “Match Day is an incredibly exciting moment in the life of a clinician.” 

Held every year nationwide on the third Thursday in March, Match Day is a significant milestone that marks the end of years of school preparation, while also heralding a new beginning, as medical school students discover where they will continue their education as residents. As recent School of Medicine graduates shared vivid memories of their Match Days along with Chancellor Collins, universal emotions emerged. 

First and foremost is the anxiety. “I remember that as Match Day approached I was both excited and nervous,” said 2009 MD/PhD graduate Gayle Pouliot (Pageau), MD, PhD. “Although I clearly hoped for my first choice, I tried to remind myself that there are many great programs out there. In the end I had to trust that it would all work out and just have patience.” 

“So much effort goes into reaching that point, the uncertainty can be nerve-wracking,” agreed 2010 graduate Jay Lawrence, MD, who participated in the couples match with classmate and then-fiancé, now wife, Stephanie Galica Lawrence, MD. “At some point in the process, you have to yield to the idea that you’ve done all you can and it will all work out how it’s meant to.” 


UMMS Chancellor Michael F. Collins shared his own unforgettable Match Day memories and why Match Day 2011 will be especially meaningful for him. Dr. Collins graduated from Tufts University School of Medicine, and completed his residency in internal medicine at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston.

Offsetting anxiety is exhilaration at having come so far. With her career goals to care for children while conducting research as a faculty member at an academic medical center, Dr. Pouliot was thrilled to receive her first-choice match in the Harvard Medical School pediatric residency program at Children’s Hospital in Boston. Drs. Jay and Stephanie Galica Lawrence were also overjoyed to learn they had received their first choices, medicine/pediatrics residencies at UMass Medical School. As 2008 graduate Kristin Mallett, MD, recalled, “Match Day was the culminating event for all of us who had spent four years (some longer) working our tails off.” 

Experiencing Match Day together with family and friends makes the moments leading up to noon—when the envelopes are distributed—less stressful, and those emotions following the big reveal even more special. “I was really happy to have my parents and my boyfriend (now husband) as well as my lab mates from the lab where I did my PhD all there,” Pouliot noted. 

“I remember celebrating with my family, then frantically looking for my friends to see where they matched,” said Dr. Mallett, known affectionately as a UMass ‘lifer’ because she preceded her UMMS residency as an undergraduate at UMass Amherst and School of Medicine student. “For the people staying at UMass, there were attending physicians and residents there to welcome us, and our families, to a new chapter in our lives,” said Mallett, who is in her final year of residency at the Hahnemann Family Health Center. “It was really great how the Medical School made the day special for us; not all schools have a ceremony.”  

For those in the couples match, in which two individuals participate in the match as a couple by linking their lists of preferred programs, twice the Match Day anxiety can be followed with twice the joy and relief. “We felt lucky knowing that, wherever we landed, we’d be together,” said Jay Lawrence. He and his wife met as first year SOM students and their wedding took place just weeks after Match Day. Together with both their families at Match Day, they were overjoyed to learn that they had received their first choices in primary care medicine/pediatrics residencies at UMass Memorial Health Care. 

Those who have been through their own Match Day offered advice for those about to experience it. “Now that I'm almost two years into residency I can say that it did all work out,” said Pouliot. 

“To the current fourth years who are growing more insomniac and on the brink of losing their sanity, relax! The wait is almost over,” said Mallett. 

“What they should really think about is how wonderful it’s going to be to come across the stage with their diploma and begin to chart their clinical education future,” Chancellor Collins added. “That’s where students’ energy should be.” 

Collins is especially looking forward to Match Day 2011, his fourth at UMass Medical School. “This was the class I came with, the first one I’ve been with since day one,” he said. “The chance to be with my first class and to watch them open their envelopes and to feel the incredible pride that comes with in some small way having helped shape their futures is very exciting. I wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world!”